Bluetongue Disease: Vaccination

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of tendering for bluetongue vaccine; [163456]

(2) when he expects to issue a formal tender for a bluetongue vaccine bank; [163458]

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of doses of bluetongue vaccine which will be necessary to eradicate the disease from the UK; [163459]

(4) what plans he has for a vaccination strategy for bluetongue disease when a vaccine becomes available. [163460]

Jonathan Shaw: On 1 November, my Department issued a tender to supply between 10 and 20 million doses of bluetongue vaccine for a vaccine bank. We also announced that this decision had been taken on the same day. The tender closes on 15 November and an order will be placed as soon as possible after that date, once we have assessed the bids submitted.

This step has been taken on the advice of the Acting Chief Veterinary Officer and the core group of bluetongue stakeholders, in light of the potential benefits that vaccination could provide in managing disease should it re-appear next year. Further work is also being carried out by the farming industry on the likely take-up of that vaccine if a scheme were to be voluntary, although that decision has not yet been taken. This work will inform our final decision on the numbers of doses required.

The cost of establishing the vaccine bank will be dependent on the size of the order placed and the outcome of the tendering process. No assessment has been made of the cost of the tender process itself.

We are developing a detailed vaccination plan with bluetongue scientific experts, representatives of the farming industry and others setting out how a vaccination programme would work. This plan will be needed to seek the approval of the European Commission to vaccinate. Discussions are also taking place with the European Commission and other member states.