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Cattle TB vaccine a decade away, say Euro chiefs

By citizennick  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

Comments (11)

A VACCINE for cattle to tackle the spread of bovine TB in Gloucestershire will not be available for at least another decade according to officials in Brussels.

Opponents of a planned badger cull to combat the disease have argued for the use of vaccination as an alternative.

But while EU officials have raised the possibility of lifting a ban on a cattle vaccine, they indicate it will not happen within the next 10 years.

A Conservative member of the Commons Environment Select Committee George Eustice has said the cross-party group would investigate the "totally unacceptable" delay.

Around 26,000 cattle are slaughtered each year as part of TB controls, at an estimated annual cost to the taxpayer of £100 million in compensation.

In the Commons, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg had agreed a "provisional time-table" for "developing a workable cattle vaccine".

Details had been outlined in a letter, including a 'tentative' timeline to 2023.

The Secretary of State said: "It acknowledges the UK's leading role in pressing forward on a cattle vaccine, and for the first time recognises that we are on course to deploy a vaccine.

"The legal and scientific process could take up to 10 years. In the meantime, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to check the progress of this terrible disease."

EU legislation outlaws cattle vaccines such as BCG, mainly because of the possibility that an injected animal is not fully protected against infection, and these then cannot be distinguished from healthy beasts.

International validation for tests to differentiate between them is the major sticking point.

In the letter to Mr Paterson, Mr Borg outlined a five-stage process – including reaching a scientific consensus, devising new EU rules and testing the legislation – to ensure the vaccine and test is effective and safe. It has been earmarked to end in 2023.

But Mr Borg added: "I would like to underline that under the current circumstances the timeline provided is to be considered as purely indicative."

Mr Eustice said: "There is no example in the world of TB ever being successfully tackled without also dealing the problem in the wildlife population so, in the short term, we do need to press ahead with pilot culls.

"However, it is totally unacceptable for the licensing of such a vaccine in the EU to take so long and this is an area that the Efra Select Committee of which I am part will be investigating urgently."

Experts say oral vaccinations for badgers are many years away, if at all possible, and an injectable vaccine for badgers – which has been trialled in Gloucestershire – is seen as both costly and impractical.

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11 comments

  • GlosABS  |  January 28 2013, 12:28PM

    If as you say the vaccine hasn't been field tested, then surely this would be the perfect opportunity!

    |   1
  • lordigaga  |  January 25 2013, 6:21PM

    The killing of badgers is starting in june, its just said on the news.

  • 2ladybugs  |  January 25 2013, 4:20PM

    @Walker100 Read my comment......I have not said that there is no vaccine available. The vaccine STILL needs to be proven as safe and viable. There have been no field trials in this country. Also as the vaccine is not 100% effective and never will be therefore there needs to be a way to prove what animal is carrying bTB and which has been vaccinated. It is other countries that are going to be affected by this if we still want to export our animals. Other farmed animals are also being affected which is a concern. Try reading my comment next time!!!

    |   -2
  • Walker100  |  January 25 2013, 4:07PM

    2ladybugs, The problem is NOT that no vaccine exists for bTB, it does. The problem is that the reactor test will show an animal that is vaccinated as being a "reactor" i.e. that it has bTB and therefore cannot enter the food chain or be transported. The fact is the animal DOES NOT have bTB and will not get bTB. My point is that if instead of spending, quite literally, hundreds of millions of pounds since the 1970s trying to control the disease using other methods all that was required was to develop a vaccine that had a "marker" i.e. something that showed it was a "vaccine reactor" and not a bTB reactor. That way vaccinated cattle could be transported and enter the food chain....simples!

  • 2ladybugs  |  January 25 2013, 1:48PM

    Alan, cattle are contracting bTB from badgers. The strain has been proven as coming from badgers not the other way round. The cattle vaccine hasn't been abandoned, it is still ongoing, but a lot more research is needed for it to be viable .

  • fischadler  |  January 25 2013, 1:38PM

    Cattle infected with bovine TB may shed bacteria in their breath, saliva, feces, urine and milk. The more animals within a herd shedding the bacteria, the greater the chance of spread to other animals. Cattle are more prone when they are poorly nourished or under stress This is probably why so many of our lovely badgers are contracting Bovine TB. Farmers need to step up bio security and employ better animal husbandry.

    |   6
  • fischadler  |  January 25 2013, 1:34PM

    I guess we will just have to keep on vaccinating badgers then as there is no will to develop a cattle vaccine. It will be the farmers loss in the long run.

    |   6
  • 2ladybugs  |  January 25 2013, 11:26AM

    @QuedgeleyGuy.......the difference being that badgers are self sustaining hosts whereas most of the others are spill over . In other words the spill over animals can only become infected if they come into contact with TB from another source. Badgers are different in that they live in confined damp,warm spaces and are therefore more likely to keep the TB spreading not only amongst themselves but also any other animal that is likely to come into contact with them. .....and yes other farmed animals are also proving positive to bTB which is worrying.

    |   2
  • QuedgeleyGuy  |  January 25 2013, 11:10AM

    It's not just Badgers that carry it. Here's a DEFRA document naming many other animals. http://tinyurl.com/b8ax8gm

    |   2
  • 2ladybugs  |  January 25 2013, 10:46AM

    @Walker100 If a vaccine had been available from anywhere in the world, don't you think that most countries would now be using it? This is not just a UK problem or had you forgotten that?

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