Vaccination Series to Prevent Rabies After Exposure
Rabies vaccination is a series of shots given over a
period of 2 weeks after a possible exposure to rabies. Rabies vaccines contain
inactivated virus particles that increase the body's immune response, which in
turn helps destroy the rabies virus.
Three rabies vaccines have been approved for use in the United
States; all are considered equally effective and equally safe. The vaccines
Human diploid cell vaccine
Rabies vaccine, adsorbed (RVA).
Purified chick embryo cell culture (PCEC).
A rabies vaccine (HDCV, RVA, or PCEC) is given:
In the form of a shot, usually in the upper arm
muscle for adults and in the thigh for children. (Shots are never given in the
buttocks because they are not very effective.)
Four times over the
span of 2 weeks. The first shot should be given as soon as possible after
suspected exposure. Additional shots are given on days 3, 7, and 14 after
exposure. A shot of rabies immunoglobulin usually is also given right after exposure.
Local reactions, such as pain, itching, and swelling at the site of
the shot, have been reported after vaccination with each of the three vaccines
available in the U.S. Systemic reactions, such as headache, nausea, abdominal
pain, and muscle aches, are less common.
Newer rabies vaccines used today are not as painful and do not require as many shots as the older vaccines.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease