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An email from the virologist (also a working farmer) Dr Ruth Watkins on why she thinks that the problems associated with using FMD vaccination in the EU are unnecessary and should be removed.
 
I think there is no need to treat the use of vaccination differently from not using it in an FMD outbreak. 
 
No rules need to be different.
 
The crux of the matter is "Under OIE rules we have to assume there is a risk  (of infection from vaccinated carrier animals, persistent infection beyond 28 days) until we are in a position to prove otherwise" This is quoted from DEFRA. 
 
But equally we know that there can be carrier animals that were never vaccinated and these can be a risk. This is a known fact.  The risk from undetected carrier animals is greater if vaccination is not used than if it is!
 
Not all infections will be symptomatic and thus infected premises where very few infections happen could occur, and would be picked up on screening (as a few were in 2001).  Thus really the decision to be made is whether all premises in the PZ and SZ (or VZ if there is one) should be screened by testing for antibodies- statistically or every animal tested. Therefore it makes no biological sense to slap on special rules such as  'vaccinated animals can never be exported' because it is possible that a non-vaccinated animal could become a carrier. 
 
Really the most important features in managing an FMD outbreak are rapid identification of an infected premise by virology laboratory testing, movement standstill, culling the confirmed infected premise promptly together with prompt removal of the dead to the rendering plant and disinfection, and careful sanitary measures.  Culling dangerous contacts could be dropped in favour of careful observation and testing, such as virus detection by PCR on blood samples from cattle as used by Pirbright in 2007.  Whether vaccination is used or not the rules for the PZ, SZ (and VZ) in terms of standstill, screening and product handling should be the same and the time span should be the same.  The choice of vaccination is therefore one that can be made quickly and without opposition.  It can be made on virology and epidemic grounds, not for political, economic, trade and other reasons irrelevant to an FMD outbreak. 
 
One can look up the rules for management of an FMD outbreak in the UK as published by DEFRA on the internet, they are based on the EU rules of 2003.  
 
Restrictions occur on protection zones, PZ, 3 Km around an infected premise, IP. This is surrounded by a 10Km surveillance zone, SZ.  The vaccination zone, VZ, is likely to include the PZ and most if not all the SZ and perhaps a convenient region, so the area could be more extensive.  The time is divided into 3 phases before declaration of freedom from FMD infection is declared. 
 
The next 8 points are the real reasons why governments prefer not to vaccinate - and not one of them is justified.
 
1  All vaccinated animals will have to have an indelible mark or tag.  What will these animals be worth when the outbreak is over?
 
After the country is declared free of FMD (by slaughter and vaccination-to-live) the vaccinated animals can never be sold alive to another country. 
 
There is an additional 3 months before regaining freedom from FMD when vaccination-to-live is used.  During that extra time restrictions continue and loss of value would be incurred which will not be compensated for the by the EU. 
 
Before phase 3 is entered for the VZ, (phase 3 lasts for 3 months and starts after surveillance is completed in the VZ) during phase 1 and phase 2 every single animal sent from the VZ straight to the abattoir for slaughter has to be tested at the abattoir for antibodies (blood taken from them for testing later as part of the surveillance).
 
Unless a derogation is applied for and granted by the EU the meat from the VZ during phase 3 (derogation is not an option in phase 1 and phase 2) from the slaughtered animals must continue to be deboned and hung.  It is admitted this is economically unviable for sheep and lambs.  Pig meat and milk are also subject to restriction.  The document says this is not for Public Health but for Animal Health reasons.  All meat coming from these animals must be given a mark to show it has been treated (the mark is not to do with vaccination but with the treatment) as described in the protocol for meat from animals in these zones.
 
6  For the screening in phase 2 of a VZ in one document it suggests all vaccinated animals will have to be tested by DIVA serology but in another that statistical sampling of all vaccinated holdings will be done (excluding sheep on extensive commmons) with probang sampling for virus detection should any vaccinated holding have an animal positive for NSP (non structural proteins) antibodies. They warn this could be slow. 
 
The loss of value to farmers of their products for an extended period if vaccination-to-live is used as an option will prohibit its use. The EU states it will not compensate for loss of value of product nor I am sure the loss of value of any animal, nor is the government likely to do so.  We all know of how the sheep markets collapsed in 2007 even when movement restrictions were lifted outside the SZs and PZs (no Vzs were created).  The abattoirs reduced their price for animals 100s of miles away from the periphery of SZs, even after arrival with a pre-agreed price, because one was not allowed to take the animals back to the holding.  Value was regained when the FMD free status of the country was reinstituted (this was too late for most of the sheep season in 2007).
 
8  At present the swill rules and the prevention of animal products in feeds should make it unnecessary for meat stamping for animal health purposes, in addition to standard abattoir and butcher shop hygiene health and safety.  The meat stamping will allow supermarkets to refuse it or only give a low price.  This rule was not present in 2001 and no spread of infection resulted, despite infected animals such as sheep being slaughtered without clinical signs and inadvertently entering the food chain.
 
 
    The obstruction to FMD vaccination is still there in the EU rules.  The obstruction is an economic one created by the EU rules.  I am sure every European country is believing that it would quickly detect an FMD outbreak so it would be confined to a small area. To avoid prolonged disaster for farmers and the rural economy the selection of control by slaughter alone, or slaughter with vaccination-to-die, will represent those options with the quickest path back to freedom from FMD infection.  This is what Bulgaria is doing now.
 
    The EU has forgotten the control and eradication of FMD in Europe by vaccination-to-live using the same vaccine as now.  This was before the era of molecular virology: RT-PCR for viral RNA and DIVA testing for non-structural proteins using synthesized peptides or recombinant proteins.  Vaccination-to-live for FMD has never been used in Europe since the 1st half of the 20th century, so the power of molecular virology in the control of FMD using vaccination-to-live has never been realized; the false barricades remain. 
 
Surely the success in the control of BTV8 by a similar vaccine (inactivated virus) in Europe should whet the appetite for leaving the Middle Ages behind and using the new tools to conquer an old foe using vaccination?