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5.4.8 What do people, physicians and veterinarians need to know in case someone gets in contact with vaccine bait

In order to be licensed, all modified live virus vaccines (see section 5.3.1.1) have to fulfil strong requirements, particularly in terms of safety for target and non-target species. Nevertheless, experimental studies have shown that humans cannot become completely apathogenic. Several types of vaccine used for oral vaccination of foxes against rabies contain rabies virus.

Although they are attenuated, these viruses are replication competent and therefore are capable of inducing a rabies infection under certain rare circumstances such as in immunocompromised hosts. Therefore, for reasons of safety in humans, any contact/exposure with vaccine virus must be reported to health authorities and is subject to immediate PEP (see section 5.4.4; 5.4.6).

There are a number of categories of direct or indirect exposure each requiring different PEP interventions, as described here.

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However, the risk is very remote. Hundreds of millions of vaccine baits containing attenuated rabies virus have been distributed, and no human rabies case has ever been reported in association with oral vaccine virus.

Recombinant rabies virus vaccines expressing the rabies glycoprotein bear no risk in terms of rabies residual pathogenicity. However, their use is also not completely without risks for humans. The risks are mainly associated with the potential residual pathogenicity of the vector virus. In case that a human pathogen is used as vector, under certain circumstances it can pose a safety risk when direct contact with the vaccine virus has occurred. In case that a non-human pathogen is used, there is no risk to humans but depending again on the vector it could cause a problem for pets.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012