email from the virologist (also a working farmer) Dr Ruth Watkins on why
she thinks that the problems associated with using FMD vaccination in
the EU are unnecessary and should be removed.
I think there is no need to treat the use of
vaccination differently from not using it in an FMD
No rules need to be different.
The crux of the matter is "Under OIE rules we have
to assume there is a risk (of infection from vaccinated carrier
animals, persistent infection beyond 28 days) until we are in a position
to prove otherwise" This is quoted from DEFRA.
But equally we know that there can be carrier
animals that were never vaccinated and these can be a risk. This is a
known fact. The risk from undetected carrier animals is greater
if vaccination is not used than if it is!
Not all infections will be symptomatic and thus
infected premises where very few infections happen could occur,
and would be picked up on screening (as a few were in 2001). Thus
really the decision to be made is whether all premises in the PZ and SZ
(or VZ if there is one) should be screened by testing for antibodies-
statistically or every animal tested. Therefore it makes no
biological sense to slap on special rules such as 'vaccinated animals can never be
exported' because it is possible that a non-vaccinated animal could become
Really the most important features in managing an
FMD outbreak are rapid identification of an infected premise by virology
laboratory testing, movement standstill, culling the confirmed
infected premise promptly together with prompt removal of the dead to the
rendering plant and disinfection, and careful sanitary measures.
Culling dangerous contacts could be dropped in favour of careful observation and
testing, such as virus detection by PCR on blood samples from cattle
as used by Pirbright in 2007. Whether vaccination is
used or not the rules for the PZ, SZ (and VZ) in terms of standstill,
screening and product handling should be the same and the time span should
be the same. The choice of vaccination is therefore one
that can be made quickly and without opposition. It
can be made on virology and epidemic grounds, not for political,
economic, trade and other reasons irrelevant to an FMD
One can look up the rules for management
of an FMD outbreak in the UK as published by DEFRA on the internet, they
are based on the EU rules of 2003.
Restrictions occur on protection
zones, PZ, 3 Km around an infected premise, IP. This is surrounded by
a 10Km surveillance zone, SZ. The vaccination zone, VZ, is
likely to include the PZ and most if not all the SZ and perhaps a
convenient region, so the area could be more extensive. The
time is divided into 3 phases before declaration of freedom from FMD
infection is declared.
The next 8 points
are the real reasons why governments prefer not to vaccinate - and not one
of them is justified.
1 All vaccinated animals will
have to have an indelible mark or tag. What will these animals be
worth when the outbreak is over?
2 After the country is
declared free of FMD (by slaughter and vaccination-to-live) the
vaccinated animals can never be sold alive to another
3 There is an additional 3
months before regaining freedom from FMD when vaccination-to-live is
used. During that extra time restrictions continue and loss of value
would be incurred which will not be compensated for the by the
4 Before phase 3 is entered
for the VZ, (phase 3 lasts for 3 months and starts after surveillance
is completed in the VZ) during phase 1 and phase 2 every single
animal sent from the VZ straight to the abattoir for slaughter has to
be tested at the abattoir for antibodies (blood taken from them for
testing later as part of the surveillance).
5 Unless a derogation is
applied for and granted by the EU the meat from the VZ during phase 3
(derogation is not an option in phase 1 and phase 2) from the slaughtered
animals must continue to be deboned and hung. It is
admitted this is economically unviable for sheep and
lambs. Pig meat and milk are also subject to restriction. The
document says this is not for Public Health but for Animal Health reasons.
All meat coming from these animals must be given a mark to show it
has been treated (the mark is not to do with vaccination but with the
treatment) as described in the protocol for meat from animals in these
6 For the screening in
phase 2 of a VZ in one document it suggests all vaccinated animals will
have to be tested by DIVA serology but in another that statistical
sampling of all vaccinated holdings will be done (excluding sheep on
extensive commmons) with probang sampling for virus detection should
any vaccinated holding have an animal positive for NSP (non
structural proteins) antibodies. They warn this could be
7 The loss of value to farmers of their
products for an extended period if vaccination-to-live is used as an
option will prohibit its use. The EU states it will not
compensate for loss of value of product nor I am sure the loss of value of
any animal, nor is the government likely to do so. We all know of
how the sheep markets collapsed in 2007 even when movement restrictions
were lifted outside the SZs and PZs (no Vzs were created). The
abattoirs reduced their price for animals 100s of miles away from the
periphery of SZs, even after arrival with a pre-agreed
price, because one was not allowed to take
the animals back to the holding. Value was regained when
the FMD free status of the country was reinstituted (this was too
late for most of the sheep season in 2007).
8 At present the swill rules
and the prevention of animal products in feeds should make it
unnecessary for meat stamping for animal health purposes, in addition to
standard abattoir and butcher shop hygiene health and safety. The
meat stamping will allow supermarkets to refuse it or only give a low
price. This rule was not present in 2001 and no spread of infection
resulted, despite infected animals such as sheep being slaughtered without
clinical signs and inadvertently entering the food chain.
The obstruction to FMD
vaccination is still there in the EU rules. The obstruction is an
economic one created by the EU rules.
I am sure every European country is believing that
it would quickly detect an FMD outbreak so it would be confined to a small
area. To avoid prolonged disaster for farmers and the rural
economy the selection of control by slaughter alone, or
slaughter with vaccination-to-die, will represent
those options with the quickest path back to freedom from FMD
infection. This is what Bulgaria is doing now.
The EU has forgotten the control and eradication of FMD
in Europe by vaccination-to-live using the same vaccine as now. This
was before the era of molecular virology: RT-PCR for viral RNA and DIVA
testing for non-structural proteins using synthesized peptides or
recombinant proteins. Vaccination-to-live for FMD has
never been used in Europe since the 1st half of the 20th century, so the power of molecular
virology in the control of FMD using vaccination-to-live has never
been realized; the false barricades remain.
Surely the success in the control of BTV8
by a similar vaccine (inactivated virus) in Europe should whet the
appetite for leaving the Middle Ages behind and using the new tools to
conquer an old foe using vaccination?