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Vaccine to halt spread of bovine TB 'not available until 2023 at earliest'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

Cornwall MP George Eustice has pledged to investigate delays to a TB vaccine

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A vaccine to halt the march of bovine TB through West Country cattle herds will not be available until 2023 at the earliest.

Critics of the Government’s plan to cull badgers to tackle bovine TB have long demanded vaccination be deployed instead.

And, while officials in Brussels have indicated there is the prospect of lifting an EU ban on a cattle vaccine, they suggest it will not happen within the next ten years.

Cornwall MP George Eustice, who serves on the environment select committee of MPs, said his cross-party group would investigate the “totally unacceptable” delay.

The disease leads to 25,000 sick cattle being slaughtered a year, principally in the rural South West where tuberculosis in cattle is rife, leaving farmers facing misery and hardship and the taxpayer having to pay compensation heading towards £1 billion.

More than 17,000 cattle were slaughtered in the West up to October 31 last year, compared to 19,400 in the entire year before.

However, figures released earlier this month by Defra, show a massive rise in the number of herds under movement restrictions, preventing slaughter or restocking.

Between October 2011 and October 2012 In the greater West Country, from Cornwall up to Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, 31,774 herds were restricted, a 17 per cent rise from the prior 12-month period. Of the areas within the region, Avon saw a huge 44 per cent increase to 1,596. Cornwall and Devon have the most herds under restriction, 5,088 and 10,235 respectively, reflecting increases of 8.5 per cent and 19 per cent.

In the Commons yesterday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg had agreed a “provisional time-table” for “developing a workable cattle vaccine”.

He said the commissioner “acknowledges the UK’s leading role in pressing forward on a cattle vaccine and for the first time recognises that we are on course to deploy a vaccine”.

He added: “The legal and scientific process could take up to ten years. In the meantime, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to check the progress of this terrible disease.”

EU legislation prohibits cattle vaccines such as BCG, chiefly because of problems in distinguishing sick livestock from healthy cattle.

In a letter to Mr Paterson, Mr Borg outlined a five-stage process – including reaching a scientific consensus, devising new EU rules and testing the legislation – to ensure the vaccine and test is effective and safe.

Mr Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, said: “In the short term, we do need to press ahead with pilot culls.

“However, it is totally unacceptable for the licensing of such a vaccine in the EU to take so long and this is an area that the Efra Select Committee of which I am part will be investigating urgently.”

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  • Charlespk  |  January 25 2013, 9:48PM

    Quote:- "The disease leads to 25,000 sick cattle being slaughtered a year," These cattle are not 'sick', they are just reactors that have been infected, and so are then slaughtered to prevent it progressing and so eliminate the disease. That is why badgers also have to be culled. . It cannot just be left to become endemic in any species as it has been in badgers.

  • Charlespk  |  January 25 2013, 9:10PM

    This problem will be solved by simply removing the protected status of badgers. They never were, and never will be an endangered species.

  • Charlespk  |  January 25 2013, 8:46PM

    Mr. Eustice, There may not be a vaccine to replace the failing BCG for MANY decades; if EVER. All they are managing to do at the moment is 'patch up a few holes' to extend its life. There will have to be an extensive cull of badgers, not just the 'pilots' and the longer it is delayed, the more severe it is going to have to be. "Why BCG does not perform like other Vaccines." In any normal infection the body defence works by production of vast amounts of antibodies. Such antibodies can also be stimulated by ordinary vaccines for all kinds of bacteria and virus diseases and they can be traced in blood which makes diagnosis with various techniques fairly easy. But this does not work for Tuberculosis - it never did and it never will do - because the tubercle bacteria have a waxy coat to which antibodies cannot attach. Tuberculosis therefore causes a so called humoral body defence; that means the very slowly multiplying bacteria are attacked by enzymes and white blood cells mainly. These are killing or even digesting the bacteria by a method called phagocytosis resulting in crumbly pus in the so called tubercles - whole heaps or lumps containing several 1000 to billions of bacteria. This defence is much more unspecific and slower than the usual one by antibodies. Any BCG vaccine stimulates this humoral defence only but never prevents an infection; it may keep it on a low scale maybe. There is no other vaccine available and there most probably will never be another one. No matter how many millions more DEFRA invests ( I hear of some 30 so far for the Vaccine only ) this is nature - which cannot be forced by politics." Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset Again; "There is no other vaccine available and there most probably will never be another one."

  • badgerhugger  |  January 25 2013, 8:40PM

    We should just vaccinate and stop worrying about exporting to the EU. Keep meat and milk for the home market if is from BTB areas.