Prevention of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection is through vaccine immunization.  When puppies are born, if they receive colostrum, their titer value should be about 77% that of the mother, and these maternal antibodies are usually present up to 12 to 14 weeks of age.  These maternal antibodies interfere with the efficacy of vaccination, so vaccination is performs several times.  Puppies are typically vaccinated three, vaccineor possibly four, times between 6 and 16 weeks of age, followed by a booster at 1 year of age and every three years subsequent. Modified live virus vaccines (MLV) provide the best protection against CDV of all the currently available vaccines, and thus are the most widely used.  (2).  The WCVM Saskatoon recommends vaccination at 7-8wks, 12wks, and 16wks with a combined vaccine for CDV, Adenovurus-2, Parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus, known by the acronym DAPP.  Note also that a rabies vaccine is recommended at 16wks, 1yr, and either every year, or every three years subsequent depending on the vaccine (12).  

There are some minor risks to vaccination of any type, especially with a MLV, but these risks are minor, and definitely not justification for not vaccinating.  Adverse reactions to the CDV vaccine are usually in the form of encephalitis, though the systemic symptoms of the disease can occur in immunosuppressed patients, or in those infected prenatally (through vaccination of the bitch).  These vaccine-induced signs, unlike natural infection, may stabilize, improve, or disappear with time, supportive therapy, or anti-inflammatory therapy.  (2)

Other possible reactions include hypertrophic osteodystrophy and juvenile cellulitis, which can develop from 4 days to 3 weeks post vaccination.  This reaction is by far most common in Weimaraners, and as such it is recommended that animals of this breed be vaccinated with recombinant, rather than MLV vaccines until skeletal growth is complete.  (13, 2)

As CDV is antigenically related to the human measles virus, and vaccinations with a canine approved measles vaccine will provide short lived protection against CDV.  In this case, maternal antibodies do not significantly interfere with the vaccine efficacy and thus these vaccines may be more effective in young animals.  Theory suggests that if the first vaccination of the above described protocol is replaced with a canine approved measles vaccine, then young animals may be better protected against CDV.  (2)

Viral Characteristics
Clinical Signs
Transmission and Risk
Other Species
Treatment and Prognosis
Medical Dictionary