France has launched a tender for 80 million doses of avian influenza vaccines as the country prepares to begin a vaccination programme this autumn. This is the first member of the EU to start such a scheme, reports Reuters.
With millions of commercially raised birds affected by avian influenza on thousands of premises in major poultry-producing nations worldwide, the call for a solution is getting louder, and vaccination is becoming the most likely scenario. Until now, governments have hesitated to roll out vaccination programmes, primarily due to any possible impact this could have on poultry trade.
However, as reported by Poultry World in August, of the poultry outbreaks until that time, the worst affected country was France with 68% of recent cases. The country remained the worst effected by bird flu of all the EU member states, with the country reportedly culling more than 21 million birds.
The pre-order, which is to be confirmed if the final test results are positive, is aimed at vaccinating ducks only.
France has mandated 2 companies, France’s Ceva Animal Health and Germany’s Boehringher Ingelheim, to develop the avian influenza vaccines. Both vaccines have been found to be effective in protecting birds against the virus itself and – more importantly – also prevented birds from shedding the virus.
“Health crises caused by avian influenza have been recurring and growing in scale, which means that preventive measures on French poultry farms need to be reinforced,” French health and safety agency, ANSES, stated. The agency highlighted that vaccination should be seen as a measure intended to supplement the preventive biosecurity measures taken in the field.
ANSES, which the ministry had tasked with presenting a range of vaccination strategies, has urged against emergency vaccination. Caroline Boudergue, deputy head of ANSES’s unit for the assessment of risks associated with animal health, welfare and nutrition, and vectors, said: “We have not chosen the solution of emergency vaccination because of the long period between the vaccination of an animal and its protection against the virus; it takes an estimated 3-4 weeks for this immunity to be acquired. Furthermore, vaccinating animals in the middle of an animal epidemic tends to increase the flow of people on farms and therefore the risk of biosecurity breaches.”
ANSES has proposed 3 scenarios regarding the risk of introduction and spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, established according to a graduated approach based on the means available for vaccination:
The effectiveness of the proposed scenarios will depend on numerous assumptions and conditions, note ANSES:
The agency also noted that if vaccination is implemented, it will require a reinforced surveillance protocol for vaccinated farms, “so that those animals that are nevertheless infected may be identified and culled as quickly as possible”.
Reuters highlights that none of the scenarios involves vaccinating broilers, which it says account for the majority of France’s poultry, and that the government tends to at least partly follow ANSES recommendations.