Most people in New Jersey will never have to worry about getting a rabies vaccination. Unlike most vaccines, you typically only receive a rabies vaccination following a possible exposure. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, exposure to rabies involves contact with the saliva of an infected animal, which usually involves a bite but could also result from an infected animal licking an open wound on your body.
Even if you do receive a bite from an animal, however, it does not necessarily follow that you will need to receive the rabies vaccine. If the bite came from a pet with a verifiable immunization record, or if the animal remains in the neighborhood and/or in containment and shows no symptoms after 10 days’ observation, you do not need a rabies vaccination.
However, in many cases, you may receive a bite from a wild animal that disappears from the vicinity shortly thereafter, making identification and observation impossible. In such a situation, you should receive a rabies vaccination to prevent possible infection, as the disease is invariably fatal. Complete rabies immunization requires multiple shots of the vaccine. With the “new” vaccine currently in use, you require only four shots. This is an improvement over the old vaccine, which necessitated a total of 30 shots.
The vaccine currently in use can produce a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis in about one out of every 10,000 people who receive it. Your doctor should observe you for 15 minutes after giving you each dose of the vaccine, as an anaphylactic reaction is most likely to occur during that timeframe. You may experience mild side effects after receiving a rabies shot. The most common include a headache, nausea/vomiting and soreness at the administration site in the arm.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.