Rabies Vaccine – Pre-Exposure


Vaccines are the best way to protect against some very serious diseases.

Pre-exposure rabies vaccination is recommended to persons at potentially high risk of bites from rabid animals. Veterinarians, certain laboratory workers, animal control officers, wildlife workers, spelunkers, forest rangers, conservation officers, hunters and trappers and travelers to certain areas are all at risk.


Pre-exposure protection from rabies disease is provided by three doses of rabies vaccine starting today, 1 week from today and three weeks from today. The rabies vaccine is given in your upper arm.


Once you receive this vaccine, you should have a blood test to determine if you need a booster shot. If you are at very high risk for rabies exposure, the blood test is done every 6 months. Those at somewhat less risk should have their blood tested every two years. Please discuss the need for blood testing with your doctor.


Receiving this vaccine means that should you have a bite or scratch that carries a risk of rabies, you will only need two more shots of rabies vaccine to protect you from this exposure. Without the pre-exposure rabies shots, you would have needed six or more injections.


What is Rabies?

Rabies is a very serious viral infection of the brain. The disease can cause confusion, breathing problems and seizures. Signs of this infection may not show up for two to eight weeks or longer. After the disease has developed, there is no cure and the person will die. Bites or scratches from rabid animals spread rabies. Foxes, skunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, cattle and bats, along with other animals, can carry rabies.


Who should not have the vaccine pre-exposure?

  • Anyone who has a temperature (fever) over 38.50 C (1010 F) on the day the needle is to be given.

  • Anyone who has a serious illness on the day the needle is to be given.

  • Anyone who is allergic to bovine serum, polymyxin, neomycin or thimerosal (mercury).

  • Anyone who has had a severe reaction to this vaccine in the past.

  • Anyone who may be pregnant at the time of the vaccine, unless the risk of rabies is very high and your physician feels you should get the vaccine.

  • People with immune system problems should consult their doctor regarding the possibility of delaying the pre-exposure needles until the condition improves.


What to look for after the vaccination:

  • Pain, redness, swelling or itching where the injection was given

  • Occasionally mild side effects develop within the first few hours after being vaccinated. These side effects go away in less than two days and include tiredness, headache, fever and chills.

  • Very rarely neurologic side effects have developed after the vaccine.

  • Allergic reactions like hives, wheezing or swelling of the face and mouth. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.

  • People receiving booster shots may develop joint pain, swelling, fever, nausea and vomiting 2 – 21 days after the shot. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.


Call your doctor if you develop any symptoms that are severe or last more than a few days.


For more information on this vaccine, contact one of the numbers below and ask to speak to a Public Health Nurse in the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Program.


519-376-9420 • 1-800-263-3456
Fax:  519-376-7782


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