UK bluetongue vaccine plan outlined

The National Farmers Union is urging all livestock keepers in the protection zone to vaccinate cattle and sheep when BTV8 vaccine becomes available at the end of this month.

The NFU is urging all livestock keepers in the protection zone to vaccinate cattle and sheep when BTV8 vaccine becomes available at the end of this month.

The "Don't Hesitate - Vaccinate!" awareness campaign is spearheaded by the NFU and funded by the regional development agency, SEEDA, in the South East. This initiative is part of the Joint Campaign Against Bluetongue, and regional partners include the Small Shepherds' Club and the Institute for Animal Health.

NFU South East is to distribute 30,000 bluetongue awareness postcards and thousands of posters across the region to help get the voluntary vaccination programme underway.

Defra has announced the roll-out of vaccine can only be delivered as and when vaccine is available. Intervet are contracted to provide 22.5 million doses of vaccine (20 million for use in England 2.5 million in Wales. It will release the first doses to the UK in May, subject to final batch testing.

Intervet expect the May delivery to be three million doses but are confident that they will exceed this commitment, and hope that the delivery in May will reach five million doses. Roll-out of vaccine can primarily only be delivered as and when vaccine is available.

The vaccine has to pass rigorous control testing before it can be released for use. Intervet will be in a position towards the end of April to provide updates every week on the release of vaccine. The remainder of the doses are expected to be received in June, July and August.

Depending on yields during the production process, it is possible that more (or less) vaccine could be delivered before these dates. Therefore the plan is flexible in order to be prepared to roll-out vaccine earlier or later if that is the case.

Under EU law, vaccination can only be carried out in a Protection Zone, however, roll-out of vaccine will be on a County by County basis. Given the unpredictability of the disease situation, Defra said it is possible the current zones may have expanded, or they may even be one single Restricted Zone covering the whole of England by early summer. This therefore offers an unreliable means by which to demarcate vaccine availability now or later in the year. Counties are easily recognisable and communicable boundary markers, by which livestock keepers and veterinarians can simply identify when vaccine may be available or sold.

Given the medium/high risk that the disease situation and Restricted Zones may change before vaccine becomes available, Defra said it would be a risk to define the vaccine roll-out plan for the whole year now purely based on the current disease situation.

Therefore a process for defining a priority list for counties to be vaccinated will be used. The priority list will be regularly reviewed by Defra, Bluetongue Experts and the Core Industry Group in the period leading up to the first vaccine becoming available, and will continue to be reviewed throughout the year. This will be based on epidemiological evidence and veterinary risk at the time of each assessment.

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