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Bluetongue Disease: Vaccination

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether he intends to apply to the European Commission for an emergency vaccination programme for bluetongue disease; and how he plans to provide for the remaining costs of such a programme; [183570]

(2) when he expects to announce his strategy for the procurement and use of a vaccine for bluetongue disease; [183571]

(3) what proportion of costs he plans to allocate to livestock owners for development of a vaccine for bluetongue disease. [183572]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 31 January 2008]: On 19 December, DEFRA announced that it is placing an order with the pharmaceutical company Intervet to supply 22.5 million doses of bluetongue serotype 8 (BTV-8) vaccine, with 20 million doses reserved for England, and 2.5 million for potential use in Wales. The UK was the first member state in northern Europe affected by the current outbreak of BTV-8 to place an order for vaccine, and Intervet has indicated that vaccine is expected to become available for use from May.

In keeping with the principles set out in the UK bluetongue control strategy, which was developed in
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partnership with the farming industry, livestock keepers in the protection zone will be able to purchase doses from the vaccine bank. It is expected that purchasing vaccine will make economic sense for livestock keepers as the cost of purchasing and delivering vaccine is significantly outweighed by the potential costs of the impact of disease.

We are working urgently with Intervet and veterinary wholesalers to finalise the cost of vaccine to farmers. However, it is important to note that the vaccination process may also entail additional costs such as veterinary administration or supervision of vaccination, identification and, potentially, pre-movement testing. Individual livestock keepers, who will benefit directly from the vaccination of their stock, will be responsible for meeting these costs. The extent of these costs will be established through a vaccination plan being developed with the industry, and we will publish a paper detailing likely costs as soon as this information is available.

The European Commission has announced that Community funds will be made available to reimburse certain costs associated with member states' emergency bluetongue vaccination programmes for 2008. The UK Government will start discussing with the Commission shortly what funding may be available, and on what terms, bearing in mind the undesirability of any conditions that may be inconsistent with our overarching objectives for control of the disease, or would increase the overall costs of vaccination to farmers themselves.