EU must speed up Bluetongue vaccination development

Conservative MEP asks Commission to adjust rules

Strasbourg, 25th September 2007 – The European Union must speed up the development of a safe bluetongue vaccine and clarify its policies to enable widespread use of vaccination across Europe, Sir Robert Atkins MEP said today.

While there are some live vaccines on the market that protect against some of the 24 serotypes of the virus, none currently protect against the serotype 8 that has affected northern Europe. There has been some success with the live attenuated (weakened) vaccine, but there are concerns widespread use could lead to persistence of the virus in the field and maybe even lead to clinical disease as the virus would still have the ability to multiply itself.

Two companies (Intervet and Merial) are in the advanced stages of working on a safe inactivated vaccine that could be developed within months. But Sir Robert warned getting the vaccine to market could take longer unless urgent action was taken by the European Commission to speed up approval and set a clear framework on whether vaccinated stock could be exported.

Sir Robert said:

“While we all hope there will not be a large outbreak of bluetongue in Britain this autumn, we must now wake up to the fact that the virus is likely to return. Bluetongue is no longer an exotic disease affecting Africa and because of the way this virus spreads, it can only be fully guarded against with vaccination.

“Although there are some live vaccines being used in other infected countries, there is a concern that they are causing more outbreaks and they would not protect against the particular serotype found in northern Europe. Development of a safe inactivated vaccine is in the advanced stages and must be sped up as this is the key to controlling future outbreaks.

“So far, the European Union’s policy towards vaccination has been unclear, and leads farmers to believe vaccinated animals could be worthless in the export market. The EU needs to reassess its policy to ensure vaccination can be used against bluetongue without leaving farmers with worthless stock. If the European Union comes forward with a clearer policy towards vaccination, it would encourage the acceleration of vaccine development.

“We now need urgent action from the EU to get a vaccine developed and on the market and we need to ensure farmers can vaccinate their animals without being penalised.”

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