Room 602a, 1a Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ
Tel: 020 7904 6000 GTN: 3290 6212
Direct Line: 0207 7904 6212 FAX: 020 7904 6552
Our reference: DEV 302
Mr Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
21 July 2001
Dear Mr Wright,
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE - VACCINATION
Thank you for your letter of 10th July 2001, requesting permission to vaccinate your animals against foot and mouth disease, which has been passed to me by John Fitzgerald of the VMD.
I understand your wish to protect your animals, and can assure you that vaccination is still an option in the Governments fight against the disease. However, voluntary vaccination by individual farmers without any form of governmental control is not permitted.
Vaccination against foot and mouth disease is covered by the provisions of Council Directive 85/511/EEC, which requires member states to prohibit vaccination. However, the Directive does provide for limited recourse to emergency vaccination in a specified area, in accordance with plans which must be authorised by the European Commission, working through the European Standing Veterinary Committee.
The rules governing the use of vaccine are stringent and far-reaching. The precise conditions vary according to the details of the proposed vaccination campaign, but broadly they involve a ban on all livestock movements within the vaccination zone for 30 days following the last vaccination. Other restrictions then apply to the movement and trading of vaccinated animals and their products for a minimum of 12 months. As you are aware, vaccinated animals must also be specifically identified and registered.
A decision to vaccinate against FMD must, therefore, be taken at a national level and must take into account the views and wishes of all interested parties that would be affected by a vaccination programme.
During the early stage of the UK outbreak, we obtained two Commission Decisions to permit vaccination in limited circumstances. In the event, having examined the options carefully, it was decided not to pursue either of these vaccination strategies, at least for the time being.
A Commission Decision of 30th March permitted the UK to vaccinate cattle in certain counties, including Cumbria and Devon. In April the Chief Scientific Advisor and Chief Veterinary Officer advised that vaccination of cattle in North Cumbria should be carried out, provided the programme had the substantial support of farmers, veterinarians, consumers and the food trade. The level of support required to make the programme work was not there, and as the numbers of new cases fell, it became clear that it would not be achieved at that time.
A second Commission Decision of 12th April allowed member states to vaccinate to protect endangered species in zoos, but only in very restricted circumstances. For example, the zoo in question must lie within 25 km of a confirmed case of foot and mouth disease, there must be a real disease risk, and stringent biosecurity measures must be put in place first. Various conditions would apply after use of vaccination, and prior to any vaccination programme being adopted, details of the animals involved and their location would have to be notified to the Commission and other EU Member States. It was decided not to pursue the vaccination of endangered species, at least for the time being, for a number of reasons. In particular, few zoos actually met the criteria; recommended biosecurity measures should in themselves offer a high degree of protections; and unwelcome restraints continue after vaccination.
Vaccination would only be effective in the battle to eradicate foot and mouth disease if used in conjunction with other measures, such as effective biosecurity and movement controls. No country has ever eradicated foot and mouth disease by vaccination alone. The Government believes strongly that biosecurity is vitally important in controlling and eradicating disease. I can understand your concerns about re-opening public rights of way. However, a balance must be struck between the need to control foot and mouth disease and the need to do no more damage than is necessary to other essential industries. Regulatory controls over public access to the countryside must be proportionate to the risk of spreading FMD, taking account of the prevailing disease situation. The risks of spreading FMD through using rights of way have diminished since the early days of the outbreak as the amount of infection in circulation has reduced significantly, and virus survival times on land are now shorter. The Veterinary Risk Assessment (No. 4) was revised to reflect this, which is why the restrictions were relaxed.
In summary, I appreciate your concerns and understand the views put forward by you and other proponents of vaccination. These, and the views of those against vaccination, are taken into consideration. Vaccination remains an option, and is continually reassessed in the light of changing circumstances and knowledge about the disease. However, we would only vaccinate if that were the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer (as was the case in North Cumbria) and our advisors have not made any recommendations for a vaccination campaign in the current situation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information.
Dr Keri Torney
Vaccination Team AHD