What Research Says About Rabies Vaccine

Research Says that Rabies is a vaccine-preventable, zoonotic, viral disease. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Yet, rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals.

It is spread to people and animals through bites or scratches, usually via saliva. Rabies is present on all continents, except Antarctica, with over 95% of human deaths occurring in the Asia and Africa regions.

Rabies is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations. Approximately 80% of human cases occur in rural areas. Although effective human vaccines and immunoglobulins exist for rabies, they are not readily available or accessible to those in need. Globally, rabies deaths are rarely reported and children between the ages of 5–14 years are frequent victims.

Managing a rabies exposure, where the average cost of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is currently estimated at an average of US$ 108 can be a catastrophic financial burden on affected families whose average daily income may be as low as US$ 1–2 per person. Every year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually. Globally, the economic burden of dog-mediated rabies is estimated at US$ 8.6 billion per year.

Rabies is probably the oldest recorded infection of mankind. The development of the first rabies vaccine by Pasteur surely had been hoped to eliminate or at least drastically reduce its incidence.

However, this goal has not been achieved because rabies is maintained in many animal reservoirs, including both domestic and wild. There are still many aspects of the pathogenicity of rabies that are unknown. For example, we have no explanation for the long incubation period (up to 6 years).

Furthermore, new patterns of rabies infection present a problem for epidemiologists and virologists alike. There are several cases of human rabies in which there was no history of a bite. Despite these continuing problems, there has been tremendous progress in the control of rabies. Cheap and safe vaccines for animals as well as humans have been developed. Oral vaccination of wildlife with recombinant rabies virus vaccines is beginning to reduce the incidence of rabies among foxes and raccoons. Vaccination of stray dogs could lead to the eradication of rabies in countries where dog rabies is the sole source of human exposure.

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Side effects of the Rabies Vaccine


Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

Incidence not known

  • Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles”, or tingling feelings
  • Confusion
  • Cough
  • difficulty with moving
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • fast heartbeat
  • feeling of discomfort
  • irritability
  • lack or loss of strength
  • muscle pain, stiffness, or weakness
  • paralysis or severe weakness of the legs
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • rash, seizures, skin rash, hives, or redness
  • stiffness of arms, legs, or neck
  • swelling of the joints
  • swollen, painful, or tender lymph glands in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • tightness in the chest, unusual tiredness, vomiting


Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:


More common

  • Chills
  • dizziness
  • fever
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • headache
  • itching, pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • muscle or joint aches
  • nausea
  • stomach pain


Incidence not known

  • Bruising at the injection site
  • diarrhea

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.


Booster dose of rabies vaccine


A regimen of four 1-mL doses of HDCV or PCEC vaccines should be administered intramuscularly to previously unvaccinated persons. The first dose of the four-dose course should be administered as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses should be administered on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination. For adults, the vaccination should always be administered intramuscularly in the deltoid area (arm). For children, the anterolateral aspect of the thigh is also acceptable. The gluteal area should never be used for rabies vaccine injections because observations suggest administration in this area results in lower neutralizing antibody titters.

Postexposure Prophylaxis for Non-Immunized Individuals

Treatment Regimen
Wound Cleansing All postexposure prophylaxis should begin with immediate thorough cleansing of all wounds with soap and water. If available, a virucidal agent such as povidine-iodine solution should be used to irrigate the wounds.
RIG If possible, the full dose should be infiltrated around any wound(s) and any remaining volume should be administered IM at an anatomical site distant from vaccine administration. Also, RIG should not be administered in the same syringe as vaccine. Because RIG might partially suppress active production of antibody, no more than the recommended dose should be given.
Vaccine HDCV or PCECV 1.0 mL, IM (deltoid area ), one each on days 0 , 3, 7, and 14.


Postexposure Prophylaxis for Previously Immunized Individuals

Treatment Regimen
Wound Cleansing All postexposure prophylaxis should begin with immediate thorough cleansing of all wounds with soap and water. If available, a virucidal agent such as povidine-iodine solution should be used to irrigate the wounds.
RIG RIG should not be administered.
Vaccine HDCV or PCECV 1.0 mL, IM (deltoid area), one each on days 0 and 3.


If exposed to rabies, previously vaccinated persons should receive two IM doses (1.0 mL each) of vaccine, one immediately and one three days later. Previously vaccinated persons are those who have received one of the recommended preexposure or postexposure regimens of HDCV, RVA, or PCECV, or those who received another vaccine and had a documented rabies antibody titer. RIG is unnecessary and should not be administered to these persons because an anamnestic response will follow the administration of a booster regardless of the pre-booster antibody titer.


Does Rabies vaccine give lifetime immunity?


Regarding how long does rabies vaccine work in humans, the result can be different depending on each condition. Rabies is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans caused by the rabies virus. The rabies virus is mainly transmitted through an animal’s saliva when the infected animals bite or scratch someone.

If someone is bitten by an infected animal, further treatment should be taken and the patient should be vaccinated immediately to stop the virus from spreading. This disease is considered very dangerous and people might be wondering how long does rabies vaccine work in humans.

Regarding how long does rabies vaccine work in humans, the immunity acquired from the vaccine can last a long time. The longevity of rabies vaccine ranges between 3 to 10 years depending on the booster dose that is given. For example, to prevent rabies, rabies vaccinations are given three times, on the day of the first injection and on day 7 and day 21 after the first injection.

For those who have a high exposure of rabies, it is suggested to receive 1 booster dose once a year and every 3 to 5 years. Whereas for those who are not at high risk of rabies exposure but want to get a vaccination, vaccination is recommended every 10 years. On the other hand, for post-exposure vaccination, 4 to 5 injections will be given if the person has not been vaccinated. If the vaccination has been done enough, the next shot will be given 2 times each year. Additional doses are usually not needed except for those at very high risk. After the booster dose, a study found that 97% of immuno-competent individuals showed a level of protection at 10 years. Therefore, about how long does rabies vaccine work in humans, immunity following a series of doses is usually long-lasting.