BTB vaccine ‘expensive’ with ‘no guarantee’ says EFRA

A vaccine for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) will be expensive, will offer no guarantee of protection and will provide little benefit in the future, a new report has said.

The report, launched yesterday by Anne McIntosh MP, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee chair, said while there was progress in the creation of a vaccine, there was a “lack of clarity” and public understanding on the subject, which McIntosh blamed the government for.

“The government is right to invest millions of pounds in developing vaccines against bovine TB. We should use every tool to combat this disease, but vaccination alone will not provide a complete solution – at least in the short-term,” she said. McIntosh also explained that vaccines would not have an impact on animals already infected.

Within the report, various pros and cons surrounding vaccinations for both badgers and cattle were outlined. In January 2013 the European Commission set out an “indicative 10-year timetable for the cattle BCG vaccine and DIVA test to become available for use”, the report said. However, tests needed to be extensive and carried out under UK field conditions, for both the vaccine and the DIVA test, before they were implemented. But McIntosh noted that the 10-year timetable was only indicative and that the government must “do all it can to speed up progress” without compromising any of the research.

Badger vaccination

Meanwhile an injectable vaccine for badgers has been available since March 2010, and small- scale studies have indicated that vaccinating badgers does reduce the risk of positive bTB results by 54%. However, there is limited data of the effects of the vaccine in the field, the report said.

“Deployment of an injectable badger vaccine is one means by which we could create a healthier badger population, but there are many unknowns to overcome if it is to be viable, and it will be expensive. To be cost-effective, deployment must focus on areas where it will have the biggest impact,” McIntosh said.

However, an approach described within the report as being “cheaper and more practical” than injecting badgers is oral vaccination. “Once developed, an oral vaccine is unlikely to provide an immediate or complete solution,” McIntosh said. But the development of an oral vaccine could take several years, the report said, while McIntosh added: “If herd immunity can be achieved, then it will still take many years as well as considerable effort and expense.

“While this is the most likely way to create a healthy badger population, it is vital the challenges involved are fully understood by all those interested in this subject.”

Follow meatinfo.co.uk to read about the House of Commons debate and vote held yesterday on the badger cull.

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