For the past three years, the international community has been confronted with the highly pathogenic avian influenza crisis and its scientific, economic, political, social and ethical implications. Since then the OIE and FAO, in collaboration with WHO, have been very active in coordinating the prevention and control of the disease and supporting infected countries in their eradication efforts. Despite these important efforts, the disease still persists in some regions of the world, while other countries in those regions and worldwide are at risk of being infected.
The enforcement of a control strategy that is based only on the application of sanitary measures to increase biosecurity and the culling of animals that are infected or suspected of being infected, has proven not be sufficient to avoid the spread of infection.
While raising serious ethical concerns among the general public, mass depopulation also gives rise to high costs and economic losses for the owners of the animals, governments and other stakeholders.
In the current crisis, the use of vaccines has been limited up till now. Important reasons for this are logistical difficulties in implementing vaccination programmes in rural areas, combined with the high costs and insufficient availability of high quality vaccine doses, especially in developing or in transition countries. The use of some vaccines also has been limited by the inability to easily differentiate infected from non-infected animals after vaccination. The monitoring of vaccination campaigns and virus circulation are crucial to prevent spread through trade or movement of apparently uninfected animals, their products or the boxes and crates used for transport. One of the main concerns of importing countries is that these measures could not be fully implemented. For this reason, export bans have often been imposed on countries enforcing a vaccination policy.
The OIE, together with FAO, recommends the strategic use of vaccination in certain situations, as part of the overall integrated strategy to control the disease. With a clearly defined exit strategy, using the DIVA approach or the frequent monitoring of sentinel birds, vaccination has successfully controlled or prevented the disease on many occasions. Nevertheless, ensuring vaccine quality control and the appropriate use of vaccines is a significant issue in many countries, and should form part of the national intervention strategies of at risk or infected countries.
The OIE and FAO consider that it is timely to convene the best renowned experts to address the issue of global guidelines for vaccination with regard to international standards, regulations and the implementation of vaccination programmes.
The scientific conference on vaccination, co-organised by the OIE, FAO and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, and supported by the European Commission, will also be an opportunity to review the current methods and recent experiences in the use of vaccination as one of the tools to control and prevent losses due to avian influenza. Finally, it will be a chance to discuss the appropriate decision-making process for the implementation of a vaccination strategy.
We welcome all of you to the conference in Verona.
Dr Bernard Vallat Dr Joseph Domenech Dr Stefano Marangon Director General Chief Veterinary Officer Director of Science OIE FAO IZSVe
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