OK, I give… I finally
put together an article exclusively for those of you who would like to learn
how to vaccinate your chicks for Mareks Disease.
First, as indicated in
my article on Mareks Disease, the sooner you vaccinate your chicks, the more
effective the vaccine will be. This is because the Mareks virus is virtually
everywhere, travels on the wind, and can be anywhere in your environment.
It’s true that you can take precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to
your chicks until you have a chance to vaccinate, but basically, the longer
you wait, the higher the risk. It takes about 10 days for full immunity to
develop after vaccination, so plan your program accordingly. Also order your
vaccine plenty of time in advance of your hatch. When you receive your
vaccine, you’ll get both a tiny vial that contains a freeze-dried vaccine
and a large bottle of diluent to dilute and re-hydrate the vaccine.
Refrigerate the small vial. You can keep the diluent at room temperature but
out of direct heat or sunlight.
Let’s begin with a list of needed supplies. You’ll need the freeze-dried
Mareks vaccine (and accompanying diluent for re-hydration), an unopened 1cc
syringe with a very small needle (5/8 or 16mm), an unopened 3cc syringe with
standard needle, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, an ‘ice bath’ (bowl
containing chipped ice) if you plan on taking more than half an hour to
administer after mixing, and of course, a cheering section.
After popping the tops
off of both the diluent and the vial of freeze-dried vaccine (leaving the
rubber stoppers in tact in both cases), apply alcohol to the rubber stoppers
of each. Take the 3cc syringe and draw a full 3cc of diluent.
Insert the needle into
the freeze-dried vial of vaccine and inject all 3cc of diluent. Shake the
vial very gently to re-hydrate the vaccine. While using the same 3cc
syringe, draw back on the plunger to draw in 3cc of air.
Insert the 3cc syringe
into the vial to release the air and break the vacuum so that you can draw
the vaccine out of the vial. With the needle just inside the rubber stopper
and the vial upside down, draw all of the hydrated vaccine out of the vial.
Insert the needle into the bottle of diluent and inject the entire 3cc of
vaccine. Gently rock the bottle of diluent back and forth to mix the
solution. You now have active vaccine ready to administer to the chicks.
Using your 1cc syringe (for the first time), draw out as much vaccine as you
are comfortable with handling at one time. Each chick will receive 0.2cc of
vaccine. (This dosage applies to all sizes of chicks.) That means that if
you fill the 1cc syringe to the 1.0 mark, then you have enough to vaccinate
5 chicks before you need to redraw vaccine from the diluent bottle. Place
the diluent bottle full of active vaccine into the ‘ice bath’ until you need
to draw again, IF you think you will take more than half an hour to
administer all of the vaccines. (The virus dies and renders the vaccine
ineffective after about one hour.)
Next (and assuming that you are right-handed), take the first victim – I
mean chick – in your left hand, face down and with the head facing away from
you. Use your left forefinger and thumb to separate the ‘fuzz’ on the back
of the neck of the chick. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work, the next step will
help it along.
of re-hydrated vaccine
chick face down
needle just under skin
vaccine creates bubble
Use an alcohol-soaked
cotton ball to clean the injection site. You will notice that the alcohol makes
most of the fuzz seem to disappear, and you will see the skin clearly. You
should also be able to see some tiny veins through the skin. This is good, since
it will help you to avoid them when injecting the vaccine (of course this offers
no help whatsoever when trying to avoid vaccinating yourself).
Using the 1cc syringe with vaccine in it,
insert the needle at an angle toward yourself, and just under the skin. You
won’t need to insert the needle very far in order to grab just enough skin with
the tip of the needle to insure that you are truly just under the skin,
as opposed to into the muscle. A slight lift up on the inserted needle tip will
verify further where you are. (Yes, that yellow chick lived.)
When you inject the accurate dose of 0.2cc of
vaccine just under the skin, you will notice a ‘bubble’ forming where the
vaccine is accumulating. This means that you are properly administering a
subcutaneous (or SQ) injection of the vaccine. (I know, different chick used for
the bubble picture. No, the other one did not die while I was doing this.
Be sure to swipe your needle over an
alcohol-soaked cotton ball in between injections to keep your needle sterile for
your next chick.
After vaccination, the chicks may seem, well, like they
might die. They may be in a little bit of shock from the chill of the alcohol to
the back of their neck. After all, they’re preferably only a day old and still
accustomed to being very warm. Keep them closely monitored for 24 hours to
insure that they don’t get out from under the brooder during that time or get
flipped over. You should right them when you notice that happening and place
them squarely under the brooder. No, it is not necessary for you to stay up all
night with them, but I know many of you will be tempted. (I know who you are.)
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