There is a new vaccine available for RHDV2. Until October 2021, all RHDV2 vaccines were imported from Europe. New Mexico used the Filovac vaccine, which was one shot administered once a year. Now, an American-made vaccine is available. The main differences between this new one and Filovac are 1) Medgene vaccine requires TWO doses given 3 weeks apart, and 2) any vet can order the vaccine directly from Medgene, whereas previously all vaccines were ordered by the state livestock board.
The below Q&A has been modified slightly from rabbit.org/RHDV to make it more relevant to New Mexico.
FAQ: Medgene RHDV2 Vaccine
What kind of vaccine is it?
Medgene’s RHDV2 vaccine is made of a single “subunit” or part of the RHVD2 virus that, when administered properly, results in a robust immune response in the rabbit which we observe as near-complete resistance to RHD. More vaccine information from Medgene is available here.
How is Medgene’s vaccine administered?
This vaccine is administered in 2 subcutaneous doses, 21 days apart and (according to preliminary reports) once a year thereafter to maintain the advertised efficacy.
How long after my bunny is vaccinated will the vaccine be effective?
Properly administered, Medgene’s vaccine will be fully effective 35 days after the first dose and 14 days after the second injection. Data on the booster is not yet available. The vaccine’s advertised efficacy requires both shots in the 2 dose regimen.
How effective is this vaccine?
In Medgene’s preliminary tests, all vaccinated rabbits survived a “challenge” which means that researchers intentionally injected the live virus that causes RHD into rabbits who had been fully vaccinated with Medgene’s vaccine; 100% of vaccinated rabbits survived this challenge in laboratory conditions.
What does Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) mean?
The vaccine is not yet fully licensed by the USDA, but instead has been given Emergency Use Authorization. As part of the EUA process, Medgene has demonstrated preliminary vaccine efficacy and safety. Additional efficacy and safety studies are underway as the company works towards a full product license.
Is this vaccine safe?
Additional data must be generated by Medgene and must meet final safety criteria for full approval, but Medgene’s vaccine has undergone extensive preliminary testing and these data do suggest this vaccine is safe!
What are possible side effects to this new recombinant RHDV2 vaccine?
So far, Medgene safety testing studies report only rare instances of swelling at the injection site which resolve within 48 hours. Other possible side effects are a temporary slight fever and/or lethargy for 1-2 days.
Who can purchase the vaccine?
Under Emergency Use Authorization, Medgene Labs is distributing vaccine ONLY to licensed veterinarians in authorized states. Licensed veterinarians should contact Medgene Customer Service at (605) 697-2600 for more information on how to purchase vaccine.
Does Medgene’s new vaccine require the use of rabbits in its vaccine production?
Rabbits are not used in the general manufacture of this vaccine. However, a limited number of rabbits are required to determine the safety and efficacy of the vaccine under federal law. Once this vaccine receives full authorization, no additional rabbits will be required to produce the vaccine.
Can my rabbit be vaccinated with the new Medgene recombinant RHDV2 vaccine if previously vaccinated with Filavac or Eravac?
Will the imported Eravac and Filavac vaccines continue to be available or will Medgene’s recombinant vaccine replace them?
Since the US-made Medgene recombinant RHDV2 vaccine option is now available under EUA, the USDA will no longer approve new import permits for the two European RHDV vaccines. There will be a transitional period where veterinarians with supplies of Eravac and Filavac on hand will use up existing stock. Veterinarians’ existing USDA vaccine import permits will not be rescinded, but these permits will not be renewed once expired, nor will any new permits for imported RHD vaccines be issued.
How do I find out which vets have the vaccine?
Unfortunately, NMHRS does not have a list of which vets carry the vaccine. However, any licensed vet is able to order the vaccine directly from Medgene so if you vet does not currently have it, they can get it within a few days.
Does Medgene’s RHDV2 vaccine “shed”?
No, this vaccine does not involve any infectious virus or whole viral particles and cannot cause viral shedding in vaccinated animals. However, if a vaccinated animal is infected with RHD, it may shed virus without showing symptoms.
Can the recombinant vaccine be given to pregnant or nursing rabbits?
Safety studies have not yet been completed for these rabbit populations, but the available data suggest this vaccine will eventually be approved for use in pregnant and nursing rabbits.
Do I still need to practice biosecurity if my rabbits are vaccinated?
Vaccination is the best protection you can give your companion rabbit. Continued biosecurity and decontamination is a good idea under most circumstances. For those choosing not to vaccinate their rabbit(s) for any reason, we recommend that strict biosecurity continue at all times. Caregivers should maintain strict biosecurity for immunocompromised rabbits as they still at significant risk before and after vaccination. We also recommend decontamination in the event of known or probable exposure – like if a family pet returns home with a wild or feral bunny. Those who are particularly risk averse may wish to continue some measure of biosecurity after vaccinating their rabbits, like removing shoes before entering the home. We highly recommend continuing biosecurity since RHDV2 is endemic in New Mexico.
Do I need to sanitize vegetables for my vaccinated companion rabbit?
House Rabbit Society recommends rinsing all greens intended for your pet rabbit whether they are vaccinated or not, however heroic decontamination of greens involving sanitizing chemicals or extensive series of washes are not necessary for vaccinated rabbits.