Back to

The Current Dutch FMD Contingency Plan

(This part only has been translated into English so far. Very many thanks to Anne Lambourn for her determination in obtaining it. As the Dutch say, the only real disadvantage to emergency vaccination is a trade rule one - "that the restrictions placed on Dutch products by other countries during an outbreak are likely to be longer if vaccination has taken place.")

Vaccination strategy FMD



Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality




In controlling a highly infectious disease like foot-and-mouth (FMD) it is of vital importance to prevent susceptible animals from coming into contact with the virus and to avoid the virus multiplication in a susceptible animal. One important measure in controlling the disease is therefore to reduce the number of susceptible animals in the area around the virus. One way to do this is to vaccinate susceptible animals. Vaccinated animals built up resistance and should they come into contact with the virus, it will not multiply, or at least develop to a lesser extent. The animal does not become infected, it will not become diseased and the virus will die out. Since 1992 it has been forbidden within the EU to vaccinate animals if the virus is not present in the country. Emergency vaccination on the outbreak of the disease is permitted in Europe and the new EU FMD Directive 2003/85/EG sets out the conditions for introducing vaccination in Member States during an outbreak. The vaccination strategy as outlined below complies with this new FMD directive.


There are advantages and disadvantages to the use of vaccination and careful consideration is therefore need when deciding whether, and when, to introduce vaccination. By far the greatest advantage of vaccination is that in the event of a large outbreak fewer animals need to be destroyed. The disadvantage is that the restrictions placed on Dutch products by other countries during an outbreak are likely to be longer if vaccination has taken place. For an exporting country like the Netherlands, a longer blockade by important trading partners would have serious economic consequences. Another disadvantage of vaccination is that it takes at least a week before vaccinated animals have built up enough resistance against the virus and this form of control is therefore less effective in the early stages than preventative slaughter (if this takes place speedily). Emergency vaccination is therefore only one of the instruments used to control an FMD outbreak. In addition to vaccination, other important control instruments, such as movement bans, increased hygiene standards for agricultural businesses and vehicles, destruction and preventative destruction are implemented to ensure an efficient and effective control of FMD. The decision to vaccinate must therefore be made with great care, taking account of epidemiological, economic and public interests.


The vaccination strategy below is the result of careful consideration based on current knowledge and prevailing opinion at national and international level. It represents the position of the Dutch Government and how it would react if an outbreak were to occur in the Netherlands now.



Points of departure

                           I.      In the control of FMD, as few healthy animals as possible will be slaughtered and destroyed.

                         II.      In the first 72-hour standstill of an outbreak, vaccination will not take place. Animals at infected businesses, contact business and businesses within a radius of 1 kilometre of the infected business will be slaughtered and destroyed in this period.

                        III.      The Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality will decide whether, after the 72-hour standstill, vaccination will take place after consultation with an expert group.

                      IV.      At the same time it will be decided which areas will be subject to vaccination.

                        V.      If any outbreak occurs in a different area the decision of whether or not to vaccinate in that area will be taken again.

                      VI.      Vaccination is preventative vaccination for life. The animals will not be slaughtered after vaccination.

                     VII.      There is no special policy for hobby animals.




I. Minimum slaughter of healthy animals

In recent years the Netherlands has experienced several large animal disease epidemics (classical swine fever in 1997/1998, FMD in 2001 and Avian Influenza in 2003). During the control of these diseases many animals were destroyed although they showed no symptoms of the disease. This method of control is an internationally accepted and very effective manner of combating FMD. Revised legislation, improved vaccines and tests, and greater international acceptance of vaccination have now made it possible to vaccinate during an FMD outbreak. This possibility will certainly be exploited if it becomes evident that animals need to be preventatively slaughtered on a large scale in order to control the disease effectively. However, the decision will only be made after taking account of all other consequences of implementing such a measure.


II. 72-hour standstill

As soon as an FMD outbreak is confirmed in the Netherlands a standstill order will come into effect. This standstill period will be used to determine the type and size of the infection. At the beginning of a standstill it has often only been established that one business is infected. More information is needed in order to implement vaccination efficiently. On the basis of a risk analysis from an expert group, vaccination strategy will be drawn up and the Minister will decide whether to vaccinate and how. This plan will be submitted to the other Member States and the European Commission in the Permanent Committee for the food chain and animal health. After approval of the plan, vaccination can begin. While awaiting approval, preparations will be made for the vaccination campaign. The framework for vaccination strategy will be laid down in the FMD contingency plan and submitted for approval to the Member States and the European Commission. 


During the 72-hour standstill, existing policy (FMD contingency plan December 2002) will be enforced. This means that animals from infected businesses will be destroyed as well as animals from contact businesses and businesses in a radius of one kilometre from the infected business. This is necessary in order to reduce the number of susceptible animals in the neighbourhood of the virus and so prevent the disease spreading quickly. Livestock holders must realise that any future outbreak of FMD will require that animals be slaughtered. The use of vaccination will however considerably reduce the number of animals preventatively slaughtered.


III. Expert group

The new FMD Directive lays down that a group of experts must be involved in advising on the best control strategy. This will include whether to vaccinate on epidemiological grounds and vaccination strategy. The crisis team of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality will weigh up the economic and social implications of vaccination against epidemiological considerations and the ultimate decision to vaccinate will be made by the Minister.

An expert group will be set up before any outbreak occurs. It will always contain epidemiologists, veterinarians and virologists and be permanently operational. This expert group is currently being set up.


The expert group will be required to give advice at short notice on the basis of a number of criteria:


Veterinary components:

         population density


The advice from the export group must answer the following questions:


Should vaccination be carried out?

In which areas should vaccination be carried out?

How large is the area or areas where vaccination will be carried out?

Can any animals be excluded from vaccination?


IV. Areas where vaccination is to be carried out

Vaccination circles

The principle is that vaccination will be carried out within a 2-kilometre radius of infected businesses. These will be known as vaccination circles. However, it is up to the experts to decide whether the principle of vaccination within a radius of 2 kilometres is the best strategy for the current outbreak. Situations may arise in which it is better to vaccinate in a larger area, if there is an explosive spread of the disease for instance.


Vaccination zones

The FMD Directive lays down that a vaccination zone must be established. This zone contains the vaccination circles and therefore has a radius of at least two kilometres from an infected business. Several vaccination circles in the same area will be contained in one large vaccination zone. This zone will contain circles where vaccination is carried out and areas in between where no vaccination is taking place. The principle is that the vaccination zone is as small as possible and includes all vaccination circles. If the vaccination circles are too far apart, a second vaccination zone will be established.



Animals to be vaccinated

Within the vaccination circles there may be groups of animals that the experts advise against vaccinating, for instance, bulls in AI centres, susceptible animals in laboratories and animals not kept for food production in large nature areas like the Oostvaardersplassen.


V. Decision to vaccinate in areas of new outbreak

After the 72-hour standstill the Netherlands will be divided into compartments, and if it is decided to vaccinate, a vaccination zone will be established. If there is an outbreak outside this vaccination zone the best strategy for the new area will be decided again. It may be that there will be no vaccination in this new area, but that animals in the infected business, contact businesses and at businesses within a radius of 1 kilometre will be destroyed.


VI.  Vaccination is preventative vaccination for life (protective vaccination). Vaccinated animals will not be destroyed. Vaccination as control instrument has the great advantage that fewer healthy animals need to be slaughtered and destroyed during an outbreak. If it is decided to destroy vaccinated animals (suppressive vaccination) then this advantage is lost. The large-scale slaughter of animals has given rise to public outcry. The public desire to protect the lives of healthy animals was fundamental in the proposal to carry out protective vaccination.


VII. Hobby animals

The vaccination strategy outlined above applies to all animals and does not differentiate between animals kept for commercial purposes and animals that are not. If a decision is made to vaccinate or destroy animals, it will apply to all animals in a specific area (apart from the exceptions mentioned above). At the moment it is not possible to introduce separate policy for hobby animals as their diversity means that there are many different requirements. Some holders of hobby animals maintain contact with the commercial sector for breeding material and surplus animals and not all hobby animals are identified and registered.