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Bluetongue Vaccine Strategy Critical

19 December 2007

UK - NFU Scotland has stressed the importance of Defra developing a coherent bluetongue vaccination strategy over the Winter, ahead of the disease’s likely re-emergence next year and the production of the first vaccine to fight it.

The UK could be the first Member State to order vaccine following the completion of the tender process by Defra. However, as yet, there is no clear government strategy on the use of vaccination, which risks undermining the attempts so far to control the disease spreading. NFUS believes that if the vaccination programme is purely voluntary and not properly co-ordinated it could allow the disease to spread to new areas. It is equally important that strategies are consistent across Europe.

Currently, there is no vaccine available for BTV8, the strain of the virus which has been responsible for over 30,000 bluetongue outbreaks in Northern Europe this year. However, all the signs are that vaccine will be available in the first half of 2008, although demand may well outstrip supply.

Currently, EU rules would only allow vaccine to be used in the 100km protection zones around infected farms. As a result, Scotland, an area free of disease, would not have access to the vaccine unless it was absorbed into the bluetongue areas and accepted all the associated restrictions (including severe restrictions on live exports for at least two years). Despite the geographic restrictions currently associated with vaccine use, Scotland obviously has a clear interest in how it is used elsewhere in Great Britain to prevent spread of the disease.

NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller said:

“At the moment Brussels wants vaccine targeted just at the bluetongue protection zones, given the sheer spread of the disease and likely supply problems across Europe. As a result, Scotland won’t be able to use vaccine unless we become absorbed into the bluetongue zones. If we do that, we would lose our unrestricted export status for at least two years. The considerable trade we have in pedigree stock with Ireland for example would disappear overnight. To do that whilst there is still a chance we could prevent the disease spreading and whilst it is unclear what volume of vaccine will be available doesn’t make any sense to me.

“Defra must adopt a coherent approach to vaccine use in the control zone in England. Its move to order vaccine is a really important step but will be undermined if it doesn’t think carefully about using it. An entirely voluntary approach which just makes vaccine available to those in the infected areas that want it could be a recipe for disaster. It could allow the virus to keep circulating in the midge population and for those midges to introduce the disease into new areas. It is equally important that vaccination strategies in each affected member state are consistent – this is a European fight so we need to approach it in a co-ordinated way.”

TheCattleSite News Desk


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