All four UK governments, and the EU Commission, must quickly
commit themselves to the widest possible anti-Bluetongue vaccination
programme before the BTV8 strain spreads further and does even
more economic and animal welfare damage.
So says the National Beef Association which notes that BTV8
has crept north into Scandinavia, is moving east towards Poland,
and is spreading westwards in Britain since it first emerged
in the Benelux countries last year.
“There are already more than 25,000 confirmed cases in Northern Europe,
it is a disease that is spread both night and day by midges, and insecticides
provide only low grade protection for as little as 24 hours,” explained
the Association’s director, Kim Haywood.
“Control and protection zone lines hugely inhibit vital livestock movement,
the disease itself undermines economic performance, and so the only effective
control is vaccination.”
“In these circumstances the NBA has no hesitation in calling on all UK
governments, and the European Commission, to commit to immediate vaccine development
and to making sure there are enough doses on hand to cover the entire population
of vulnerable livestock before BTV8 re-emerges among the national cattle and
sheep population next summer.”
According to the NBA it is imperative that pro-vaccination moves are made immediately
otherwise it will be too late.
“Manufacturers will not begin large-scale vaccine production unless the
commercial risks are covered by a fully approved, cross Europe, vaccination policy
but we understand that no government moves have been made to kick-start this
process,” said Ms Haywood.
“There is not a moment to lose because the NBA has been advised by pharmaceutical
companies that six-eight months is needed to secure a go-ahead, develop an effective
vaccine, acquire the license, and organise distribution.”
“The Association has also been told that cattle would each require two
prime doses of a dead, single BTV8 strain, vaccine over a very short interval
followed by one booster if the national herd is to be properly protected and
that the UK herd alone would require up to 30 million doses on top of what is
required for sheep.”
“No-one in the UK, least of all government, can afford to be complacent.
BTV8 is not a disease we should live with. Evidence suggests that livestock are
hit harder in the second year of the BTV spread and both fertility and production
output is badly affected.”
“There are suggestions that government is uneasy about approving a vaccination
programme because it has never done so with FMD and vaccination may also disguise
BTV’s spread. However the NBA has no doubt that the best form of defense
against BTV is vaccination and without it the UK’s farmers will find it
impossible to protect both their livelihoods and their stock,” Ms Haywood
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