Badger vaccination project suspended in Wales

The decision to suspend the badger vaccination project in Wales has been met with disappointment.

The Welsh Government suspended its programme following advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to review usage due a shortage of the vaccine. The WHO urged all countries to focus on the nations that had the highest human TB rates, as the manufacturer of the vaccine SSI is currently suffering a backlog and will not be producing BCG until further notice.

Deputy Minister Rebecca Evans said: “Bovine TB (bTB) is a serious animal health issue and we are continuing to build and develop a programme which is robust and flexible, and involves working in partnership towards our goal of a TB-free Wales.

“However, public health must always take priority and, until the supply situation is resolved, our badger vaccination projects currently under way in Wales – which include year five of the IAA project, and parts of the Badger Vaccination Grant scheme – will be suspended.”

She said the previous years of the IAA project will not have been in vain. “We are four years into a five-year programme within the IAA and two years into private vaccination grants, but this does not mean that the hard work of the previous years will have been wasted. We have successfully administered more than 5,500 doses during that time.

“Vaccination is far from the only tool in our armoury in our efforts to eradicate bovine TB. We have increased focus on epidemiology and are identifying patterns of disease in Wales. We have developed a TB dashboard to present TB data clearly, introduced informed purchasing polices, and are monitoring the profile of disease in wildlife through our Badger Found Dead survey.”


The British Veterinary Association (BVA) expressed dismay at the announcement. Neil Paton, president of the BVA Welsh Branch, said: “This is disappointing news and will be a significant blow to the bTB eradication programme in Wales. However, it is clear that the One Health and human health agenda should take priority in this case.

“We urge Welsh Government to reconsider its eradication programme as a matter of urgency, particularly in relation to wildlife control. We welcome the move to commission modelling work to evaluate the impact of suspension and we are keen to work with the government to identify an evidence-based solution to this problem, so that any potential progress made in Wales is not lost.”

BVA president Sean Wensley added: “This development further emphasises the need for the agricultural sector to have as many tools in the toolbox as possible in order to fight bTB. It is right that public health takes priority, but it is regrettable that the supply chain is so vulnerable and we would want to see more security in the future.

“We also expect the global shortage will affect the bTB eradication programmes in England and Northern Ireland, both of which include an element of badger vaccination. We will continue to engage with all UK governments to push for comprehensive and evidence-based eradication strategies.”

According to Evans, 94.4% of herds in Wales are free from disease and the Welsh government “remains committed to continuing its hard work to eradicate bovine TB from Wales for good”.

“I have commissioned modelling work to investigate the potential impact of these changes on the IAA vaccination project and to assess a number of scenarios. We will continue to evaluate the impact of all interventions within the IAA, including vaccination.”

Meanwhile, a Defra spokesperson said: “Vaccination is one part of our strategy to eradicate bTB from England. We are considering the situation created by a global shortage of TB vaccine very carefully and a decision will be made in due course.”

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