Foot and mouth vaccination is not the answer Author: Prof David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser
( warmwell comments added in red )

Prof David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, explains why he believes that culling was the right way to deal with the crisis

NEITHER I nor my science group has ever proposed a mass, nationwide vaccination programme to tackle this crisis.

In fact no one is seriously proposing mass vaccination, and I will run through the reasons why not. (several people are seriously suggesting the mass vaccination of cattle)

First, mass vaccination, which would involve more than 40 million animals, does not completely remove the virus. Those animals that are incubating the disease when vaccinated will still become infectious. (And will therefore be slaughtered once showing that this has happened - but those in the herd not incubating the disease - and it only affects a few at a time - will be protected)

And vaccinated animals can still carry the virus, and may be infectious to other animals. The virus can live in the tissues of their throat for some time. (True and it is not infectious. No animal that has been vaccinated has been shown to pass on the disease through bodly contact)

There is little evidence that vaccinated animals that carry the virus can spread it, but the risk, however small, remains. (This is nonsense. the risk is a "zero risk")

Foot and mouth disease-free countries such as New Zealand and America will ask why they should take even the slightest risk of importing vaccinated animals. (They would be far more likely to refuse to take animals from Britain where the disease has not been eradicated but has remained a nightmare for over seven months)

Second, nationwide mass vaccination does not necessarily stop the disease spreading from generation to generation. Mothers can pass antibodies to their offspring through their early milk. This gives temporary protection but, at the same time, interferes with the young animals' immune response. Because of this, it is difficult to vaccinate young animals successfully, and leaves them vulnerable to disease. This prolongs the period over which the virus can continue to persist. (No. Vets attending the conference on Saturday in Bristol were told by Dr Paul Sutmoller that although younger animals may need two injections rather than one, they are successfully vaccinated )

Third, mass vaccination would make it impossible to tell the extent to which the virus is present in the country's livestock. There are no internationally recognised tests that are able to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals. (Oh but there are. They are "internationally recognised" in South America whose countries are now way ahead of us in treatment and eradication of the disease.)

If we had embarked on such a programme, we would not have been able to free up large areas of the English and Welsh countryside. ("Free up"? What can Prof King mean here? Free for what? Stonecrop and Lundy cabbage?)

We knew that this outbreak could have a long tail. (Actually, the disease has embarrassingly confounded any government "knowledge". It was supposed to be "on the home straight" by early May and to have finally disappeared by June 9th) But we have grounds to be cautiously optimistic. The current outbreak has been dominated by the disease in sheep. (what has this statement to do with refusal to vaccinate?) Blood tests conducted on more than 700,000 sheep in areas that formerly had the disease have shown that the vast majority of animals are healthy (well, so were the ones who were found with antibodies, such as the healthy Brecon Beacons hefted flocks, but they were all killed too since their presence was an affront to those seeking to prove a disease-free status. ): less than one tenth of one per cent gave any cause for concern. (unfortunately, serological tests cannot be given to the wildlife population and are merely an attempt to prove to the EU that we are free of disease. We are not.)

The cull policy has wiped out the disease in much of the country. (and wiped out millions of animals and their young, the work built up over many generations and several despairing farmers who have hanged themselves) About 77 per cent of the areas that have suffered infection during the outbreak have now been declared free of the disease. (And, after seven long months of misery, about 23% of the country has not. In addition, over vast swathes of the country, the bureaucratic shackles of movement controls have further added to the near impossibility of keeping small farms running)

The vaccination debate is frequently characterised as a straight choice between mass vaccination against no vaccination at all. (When? By whom?) Vaccination has been used overseas as a supplement to the cull policy, and the animals are often subsequently slaughtered. (This did happen in Holland as a result of EU blackmail - but only after the farmers had been misled into believing their vaccinated animals were safe. It was a national scandal - but pales into insignificance in comparison to our own.)

Ring or buffer zone vaccination can be used with culling around an infected farm or area. Animals incubate the disease for up to 14 days, and vaccination will not work for them. ( Only a few animals in any group incubate the disease at any one time. The rest can be saved with vaccination. Animals that do develop the disease can be destroyed)

Rings would have to be very large to catch all incubating cases, some of which appear more than six miles from the source. (warmwell note: one of the great advantages of vaccination is that rings CAN be ten miles wide if necessary) In Hexham and Settle, for example, such rings (what rings?) would not have been large enough to catch outlying cases. (but large rings would) Regaining our disease-free status would also be affected by the presence of such animals (and NOT doing so meant we have not yet become disease-free with or without status ).

The one situation where I did recommend vaccination was in April when much of the 200,000 cattle population in Cumbria was still being overwintered in sheds. (warmwell note: It was hardly Prof King's recommendation in spite of his use of the first person pronoun. Mr Blair was very anxious to use vaccination before the election since he realised that the vast pyres and their resultant dioxins were causing concern. He was outmanoeuvred by Anderson, Gill and Blackburn and caved in. The farmers were blamed.)

They would have been vulnerable to infection when let out into fields. It was felt at that time to be worth all the consequences of declaring Cumbria a vaccinated area. (warmwell note: what "consequences"? Freedom from the devastation that has destroyed lives and the rural economy of Cumbria so completely? No, Prof King is thinking of Brussels bureacracy here)

The cull policy remained the Government's primary tool in bringing the epidemic under control, and we did not feel that manpower should be drawn away from that strategy to introduce vaccination. (warmwell note: Defra's "manpower", far from effectively controlling the outbreak, has been mainly employed thoroughly to intimidate farmers with threats and blackmail. A sad recompense for the years of loyal obedience British farmers have given to the Men from the Ministry in whom they have put their misplaced trust.) However, without widespread support from the farming community, such a programme would have been ineffective.

Despite lengthy discussions, farmers remained unconvinced. (warmwell note: if they remained unconvinced then it was because Prof King's heart - assuming the existence of this organ - was not in persuading them while the advice they were getting from Ben Gill was misleading in the extreme. Moreover, most farmers in Cumbria were given no opportunity to respond either way)In the event, a large number of cattle in sheds became infected before they were let out.

I believe that we are in the final stages of the outbreak. But there is no room for complacency. (warmwell note: when are these politicians going to stop using this thoroughly unpleasant word? As if anyone involved for the last seven months, apart from the cushioned politicians, could possibly feel any complacency whatsoever) There may be old disease among a few flocks of sheep that could suddenly be stirred up into new local epidemics, as recently occurred in Northumbria. (warmwell note: this statement is unbelievable in its audacity - "old disease in sheep" does not and did not cause the Northumberland outbreak as Prof King very well knows)

Any autumnal movement of livestock has to be carefully controlled so that it does not result in greater movement of the disease. (warmwell note; the restrictions will cause such welfare problems that many small farmers will wearily welcome the welfare cull and bow out of farming) Sept 21

We felt that this article simply could not be allowed to pass without extensive comment

Warmwell has received these additional comments from Lawrence:

I enjoyed your annotation of Prof King's letter to the Telegraph. One extraordinary contradiction which you didn't highlight was his consecutive statements that:

The current outbreak has been dominated by the disease in sheep.

Followed by:

Blood tests conducted on more than 700,000 sheep in areas that formerly had the disease have shown that the vast majority of animals are healthy : less than one tenth of one per cent gave any cause for concern.

So what evidence does this provide of the outbreak being dominated by the disease in sheep?

Later he writes about Cumbria:

In the event, a large number of cattle in sheds became infected before they were let out.

So they weren't infected by sheep... Alan has commented several times on the lack of apparent evidence for this blaming of sheep for the spread of the disease. It seems more like and excuse to wipe out as many as possible.

At the Bristol Forum Paul Sutmoller told us that in Uruguay, 10m cattle were vaccinated and 40m sheep were left unvaccinated - and the disease was eradicated. It was not sustained by the sheep and it died out. He said the same had been found in other S American countries. So what evidence does Prof King have to refute this scientific evidence - and why is our disease different?

Paul Sutmoller described the 01 strain as a 'guerilla virus' which is very difficult to control without vaccination because it can exist in a subclinical form and then break out in its fully developed form. Vaccination neutralises the natural carriers.

Finally the thing which is and has been killing off the small family farms[and all Rural Businesses] has been the restrictions which inevitably accompany the slaughter policy. [See my last few e-mails for recent illustrations.]