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Stackyard News Mar 08

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Union Outlines Bluetongue Vaccination Views

The Scottish Government needs to place an order for bluetongue vaccine as soon as possible and develop a flexible strategy for its compulsory use, according to NFU Scotland which has held meetings around Scotland to discuss vaccination options with its members.

NFUS Vice President
Nigel Miller

NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller

NFUS has stressed that Defra’s decision to adopt a voluntary approach to vaccination has badly let down disease-free areas like Scotland and has increased the risk of the disease spreading this year.

NFUS’s proposed plan for vaccination takes into account the current EU rule which demands that, as soon as the first vaccine is administered, disease-free status is sacrificed and all restrictions to prevent potentially infected animals coming into the region are removed. NFUS believes Government must lobby the Commission to allow vaccination to happen before import restrictions are lifted. Unless this rule is relaxed, vaccination during the Winter (when midge activity is low) is the preferred option.

In light of the current EU rules and the decisions taken by Defra, and following the Union’s meetings with members, NFUS has set out the following priorities for bluetongue control in Scotland:

  1. The Scottish Government should place an order for vaccine now to ensure a bank is available as soon as possible after the product comes on the market.
  2. Any vaccination programme must be compulsory, with funding sought from the European Commission.
  3. The timing and scale of vaccination must be dictated by the disease situation and kept under constant review.
  4. If Scotland can remain largely disease-free this Summer, a compulsory vaccination programme should be carried out during the vector-free period this Winter, ahead of the increased disease threat in Spring 2009. The scale of this vaccination programme should be determined by veterinary risk assessment. Ideally, it could be confined to a ‘high risk’ area (the South of Scotland) which would provide disease protection for that zone and maintain the disease-free status of the North of Scotland. However, a Scotland-wide approach to compulsory vaccination may be necessary.
  5. If Scotland suffers a significant incursion of bluetongue this Summer or if the disease risk is too high to wait until Winter, earlier compulsory vaccination will have to be undertaken.

NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller said:

“We are in a much more dangerous position in Scotland than we should have been. Defra’s decision to adopt a voluntary approach to vaccination puts us at a far higher risk this year. In our minds, there are two certainties for how Scotland should proceed. Firstly, we need access to vaccine as soon as it comes on the market this Spring so we have options. Secondly, any Scottish vaccination programme should be compulsory. The issues of exactly when we use vaccine and on what scale will have to be kept under constant review in light of disease developments in the coming months.
“The current EU rules are not helpful to us. As soon as the first needle goes into a Scottish animal, we assume the same status as the parts of England and the EU which have the disease. This would therefore allow free movement of animals, include those carrying bluetongue, into this country. We need Government to fight to change these rules in Brussels. At the very least, we need a window to allow vaccine to become effective before import restrictions are lifted.

“However, if the current rules remain in place, we should try and tough it out over the Summer and vaccinate in the Winter when midge and disease activity is low. That will give us time for a compulsory vaccination programme to be administered and for protection to become effective before midges and disease re-emerge in Spring 2009.

“I don’t buy the argument that English or Welsh buyers won’t source Scottish animals this Summer if they are not vaccinated. The whole point is that they are coming from a disease-free area so the risk is low. Anyway, if buyers are worried, they always have the option to vaccinate when animals arrive down south, which would be good practice.

“The only thing that is certain about a Scottish bluetongue vaccination plan is that nothing must be set in stone. Both the disease situation and the science surrounding it are changing day by day. Winter vaccination and a targeted programme in the South of Scotland is probably the ideal approach, but the disease situation may not allow us to have the luxury of choice. If we need to vaccinate earlier and if we need to have much a more extensive programme of vaccination, then that’s what we will have to do.”

link Livestock Farmers Urged to Understand Bluetongue Threat
link Scary Blue Tongue Outlook for Welsh Sheep Farmers
link Bluetongue Risk to Scotland Without Vaccine is Too High

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NFU Scotland