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UK News
Beckett rules out panic bird flu vaccination
Feb 27, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Margaret Beckett has today admitted that the government is  "not ruling out"  vaccinating British birds to protect the country from avian flu, but has again resisted calls to act immediately.

France has today begun a programme of vaccinating nearly one million free-range geese and ducks in the Mont de Marson area after the H5N1 strain of the virus was found there, but the British environment secretary remains cautious about following suit here.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four, Ms Beckett said "anybody sensible would have reservations" about the vaccine as a blanket solution to the spread of bird flu.

The government claims the vaccine currently available is expensive and does not stop birds from being carriers of the disease, rendering it ineffective as a preventative measure.

And Ms Beckett, who today addressed the annual conference of the National Farmers Union in Birmingham about the issue, has expressed her concern that the vaccine "may increase the likelihood of disease not becoming visible, hiding the presence of disease".

But, despite her reservations, Ms Beckett said the government was "not ruling out the use of vaccination".

"If we have an outbreak here we will look at how it has to be handled and how it has to be dealt with," she said.

French authorities began their vaccination programme this weekend after the HN51 strain of the disease was found in farmed turkeys in the east of the country, which are believed to have become infected by coming into contact with geese faeces.

Opinion is split in the country over inoculation, with many in the farming trade concerned that poultry exports will be affected.

2006 Adfero Ltd.

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