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
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
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:
- 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.
- Any vaccination programme must be
compulsory, with funding sought from the European Commission.
- The timing and scale of vaccination must be dictated by the
disease situation and kept under constant review.
- 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
- 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
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
“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
“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.”
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