Countryfile item on vaccination: 10th March 2002
John Craven: With new developments like marker tests will Europe's ministers change their policy and allow vaccinated animals to live or will mass slaughter still be seen as the only solution?
Dr David Paton Head, Department for Exotic Disease Control Pirbright Laboratory Institute for Animal Health
Dick Sibley, president of BCVA
Janet Bayley, spokesperson for the National Foot and Mouth Group
It is unfortunate that the programme missed an opportunity to talk to a veterinary expert in the disease, independent of government or of commercial interests, who would have been able to talk authoritatively about the practicalities of an up-to-date vaccination programme.
The transcript should be read in conjunction with "Vaccination and Transmission", written by just such an independent expert.
John Craven:Let's look back at one of the blackest chapters in recent history,that of Foot and Mouth. It spread across 30 counties affecting more than 10,000 farms, and cost the taxpayer nearly 3 billion pounds. Thankfully recent fears of a new outbreak of the disease on a farm in North Yorkshire turned out to be a false alarm, but it was by no means the first scare science the outbreak petered about 6 months ago. But what if the next one isn't a scare, what if the nightmare returns?
Janet Bayley:I just don't think we can go through that devastating impact again, it affected not only farmers but rural businesses, rural communities, individual farmers, the welfare issues were absolutely appalling 10 million animals slaughtered the funeral pyres the burial pits at Great Orton we just cannot go through those images yet again, its absolutely devastating and there must be a better solution in the 21st century.
John Craven:Janet Bayley speaks for a group of farmers,vets and countryside campaigners in favour of using vaccination. With the Government more or less saying it wouldn't pay for another mass cull, and with two major enquiries looking into how future outbreaks should be controlled, vaccination is again high on the agenda. Last year's crisis took everyone by surprise the disease had spread across England before any action was taken, and though later there was a lot of talk about using vaccines the idea was ruled out:
Nick Brown:We may have to retreat to it, but it would be a substantial retreat, and at the minute containment
(unknown voice):An awful lot of sheep out there, too many I think, and too widely distributed..
Ben Gill:We considered vaccination on a number of times through this diseases evolution, but I think there are very many questions
Tony Blair:There isn't a substitute for the existing policy. We have to have sufficient support and acceptance practically in order to get vaccination done.
John Craven:For political and economic reasons the mass slaughter went on, but was there any sound scientific reason for not using vaccination?
Dick Sibley:Well first of all the vaccines aren't really good enough, and they are serotype specific, so they only protect against one serotype, they are short acting, and they don't really protect well enough against the virus. They protect reasonably well against the disease but not the virus, so you can have vaccinated animals that are still infected. (warmwell note: However, see email from Dr Sabine Schüller from Intervet, received today)
David Paton:This is really fundamental to the control of foot and mouth in the economics of international trade, and the fact is if you vaccinate at the moment it makes it more difficult to detect carriers after the outbreaks over. These are animals that have recovered from the disease but which still harbour virus in the back of the throat. In ruminants they can harbour the virus for quite long periods of time, and they have a low risk, but potentially very significant of spreading the disease again and starting up new outbreaks. (warmwell note: However, see Vaccination and Transmission paragraph 2)
Dick Sibley:When you vaccinate a population you need to be able to know whether that animal is fully protected, whether it is potentially carrying the virus, and whether it has been exposed to the virus, and we don't have the technology to allow us to do that with confidence as yet. (warmwell note: Mr Sibley has not been keeping up to date with the most recent validation. Dr Schüller's other email makes it clear that we do indeed "have the technology")
John Craven:But in the past few months there has been a breakthrough in the form of this marker test kit, and now laboratory analysis by the kit can differentiate between virus and vaccine:
Intervet:The breakthrough is that it is a ready to use, easy to perform test that is available; that is testing for all types of serotype of the FMD disease. So last time it was 'O' - if other FMD diseases come in you also can detect it with the same test so you don't have to miss anything. So in that sense it can really save a lot of animals.
John Craven:The test can be used on any vaccine on sale in Europe.
Last year the Netherlands used vaccine to control an outbreak, but the marker test wasn't yet ready, and vaccinated animals were slaughtered.
Now the test is ready so how could a future outbreak be tackled?
Intervet:First slaughter the herds that are involved. If it gets out of control do an area vaccination in that area. After everything is silent then all the animals are tested within that vaccinated area and animals that are positive those herds are slaughtered; animals that are negative will be available for the local meat market.
David Paton:Well I think this and other similar tests do represent a very positive development in being able to detect carrier animals amongst the vaccinated population - but the possible problem with the marker test is the certainty of detecting carriers is slightly less using this test than it would be using the conventional approach. (warmwell note: what did David Paton mean here? What "conventional approach"? For detecting carriers in a non-vaccinated population? Why did no one press him for clarification?)
Dick Sibley:Anybody can come up with good laboratory results but we want the confidence of knowing that this actually works in the field when you are confronted with the level of infection that we were last year. (warmwell note: See vaccination and transmission " Evidence of this comes from field studies following emergency vaccination -there is no evidence of spread under vaccination after cases cease - survey following emergency vaccination usage in Albania, 1996")
John Craven:Vaccines and marker tests like this could mean the difference between life and death for farm animals caught up in a foot and mouth outbreak - providing politicians give the go ahead.
Janet Bayley:What we need now is a change in policy; we need to be able to move to where if we use vaccination there should be no problems with using that as opposed to the last method of control which was the terrible slaughter policy.
The science is there, we have the vaccines, we have the tests.
We need the political will to get these vaccines adopted and that is all that stands in the way of the primary use of vaccine in a future outbreak.
Dick Sibley:I think in the end that vaccination will become part of an EU FMD policy, part of the contingency plan, but it will depend on animals being traded and their value being maintained, because at the moment if we had vaccinated animals in the country at this present time as a consequence of last year's outbreak I would advise my farmers not to buy them, and that in itself devalues them and those people that own them would be financially compromised because of that policy. (warmwell note: Again, a statement that needed challenging and clarification. "I would advise my farmers"? Was Mr Sibley admitting that he himself was responsible for the erroneous view that vaccinated cattle would be unacceptable to the population - a population who had been consuming them for years? " Extract from the lessons learned submission of Dr Binns and Dr Crispin: " It was shameful for Government spokesmen and the NFU in particular to suggest that the public would not wish to eat meat or drink milk from animals vaccinated against FMD. Some 70,000-100,000 tons of meat from countries with endemic FMD, many of which employ vaccination, apparently entered the UK for human consumption over a 12 month period in 2001."
Also, from another source: "Risk assessments indicate that where any risk of virus remaining exists, vaccinated meat is far safer than non-vaccinated meat products since antibodies prevent virus circulation in blood and therefore in tissues, also reducing the risk of surface contamination of meat by splashes from blood of non-vaccinated viraemic animals. In the absence of vaccination, prolonged restrictions and surveillance are needed to avoid the chance of viraemic animals entering abattoirs. The relative safety of meat from well-vaccinated animals contributed to the anomalous situation that importing meat into the EU and Japan from Uruguay occurred more rapidly after the last case than occurred after the last case in Scotland."
John Craven:With new developments like marker tests will Europe's ministers change their policy and allow vaccinated animals to live or will mass slaughter still be seen as the only solution?
..... ( See also this advice from an FMD expert in the field )
Our grateful thanks to Jon Dobson for the transcript