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EU influences progress of cattle vaccination

Bovine TBPosted by Susan Hooper Sun, May 12, 2013 18:54:53

Earlier this year the current Secretary of State for Enviornment, Food and Rural Affairs received a letter from Tonio Borg, EU. It referred to the UK bTB eradication programme to be implemented in 2013 which has been approved by Commission Implementing Decision 2012/761/EU. The letter summarised a number of commitments made. 

The EU has a good deal of interest in bTB policy in England and Wales. It has allocated considerable funds to support the UK bTB programmes (EUR 116,3 Mio in total). The EU therefore expects significant improvements in the epidemiological situation in 2013 to show efficient use of these EU funds; 'absolutely necessary in view of a further renewal of the EU financial support to this programme.' This then is the main reason for its direct influence.

Of greatest interest to us was the attachment which related to the future possible use of a vaccine for cattle. The text is set out below. However, we believe that with a strong political will and the support of the farming industry  there is no good reason why cattle vaccination can't be a viable option in the near future.

Vaccination against bTB is explicitly forbidden in the EU legislation on disease control (Council Directive 78/52/EEC) and implicitly also in intra-Union trade legislation, as vaccination is not compatible with the provisions for testing and herd qualification (Council Directive 64/432/EEC). EU legislation is fully in line with OIE standards on international 

trade and can be changed only by the European Parliament and the Council. 

The main reason for the current vaccination ban is due to the possibility that vaccinated animals are not fully protected against bTB infection. Due to the suboptimal protection induced by the available vaccines (live BCG vaccine), vaccinated animals may become infected if exposed to the disease agent and then they cannot be distinguished from the non-infected vaccinated animals, due to the interference of vaccination with existing diagnostic methods (PPD-tuberculin skin test). This would jeopardise current bTB control and eradication policy. 

UK has invested considerable resources to develop a candidate vaccine accompanied with diagnostic test(s) that would be compatible with the vaccine (DIVA1 tests). Apparently only Ireland and New Zealand have shown some interest in this development. 

Scientific knowledge on bTB vaccination was reviewed during a recent technical workshop held in Cardiff. The outcome of the workshop clearly indicates that the hypothetical use of the only candidate vaccine (live BCG vaccine) presents still many knowledge gaps, in particular concerning the performance of the vaccine (level and duration of protection, 

protection from disease or infection), safety (possible shedding of the attenuated live pathogen by vaccinated animals), conditions for use (age of animals, type of herd) and suitability of candidate DIVA test(s). 

Fundamental scientific information is not yet available on the reliability and feasibility of cattle vaccination accompanied by use of DIVA test(s) that is fundamental for a possible change in the current EU policy on the control and eradication of bTB. Future studies should also address food safety concerns (shedding of vaccine strain in milk), human health 

concerns (BCG is the only vaccine available for humans and its use in cattle may lead to the selection of BCG-resistant strains of bTB that may affect also humans) and animal health and trade concerns (proper discrimination between vaccinated and infected animals, costs/benefits of vaccination policy, current policy, acceptability of vaccinated animals in 

international trade). 

However, you can find attached a tentative time line for bTB vaccination of cattle in UK and the EU, showing the series of steps/milestones that will be needed. I would like to underline that under the current circumstances the timeline provided is to be considered as purely indicative. 

In the Annex attached a tentative time line for possible use of a vaccine against bovine tuberculosis in the EU was set out. 

The letter and attachments can be read in full at:

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