Bluetongue vaccine Bovilis BTV8 from Intervet secured Veterinary Medicines Directorate approval earlier this week (Tue 1 April 2008).
Here the supplier answers some of the key questions about the product and its use.
1. When will vaccine be available?
The first batch of 2m doses should be available by May with regular deliveries thereafter.
2. How much will it be?
DEFRA has stated that the final on-farm price is likely to be 55p-66p a dose for the 50-dose (50ml) bottles and 82p-98p a dose for the 20-dose (20ml) bottles. This includes overheads relating to admin and distribution. Costs may vary with vet fees, and if people require supervision for its use, costs may rise again.
3. How do I get vaccine?
It will be a prescription-only medicine (POM-V) available from your vet. Most practices are devising customer ordering systems, so check with them for the exact details.
4. What is the dose rate?
In sheep it will be a single 1ml injection. In cattle, the protocol is two injections, each of 1ml given subcutaneously three weeks apart.
5. How do you store the vaccine?
The vaccine needs to be stored in the fridge at 2C to 8C and once the bottle has been opened it has to be used within eight hours.
6. Who administers it?
This can be done by vet, farmer or stockman. If animals are vaccinated with a view to live export to the Continent, a veterinary certificate is likely to be required. For up-to-date information, refer to the DEFRA website.
7. Can you vaccinate lactating animals and if so what is the withhold?
Because this vaccine has a provisional licence there are no data available on the use in pregnant or lactating animals, but there is nil milk withhold.
8. What about in-calf animals and calves?
The vaccine has yet to be tested on pregnant animals and it cannot be used on animals under one month of age.
9. Is it really necessary to vaccinate?
Yes, vaccination is the only real option because the vector is an insect and there are no guaranteed protection methods. Control by trapping midges and removing their breeding grounds may reduce vector numbers. Using deltamethrin-based pour-on products has also been shown to be effective at killing midges. DEFRA and SEERAD advise keeping stock away from low-lying damp grazing, particularly at dawn and dusk. Dung heaps or slurry pits should be covered or removed, and their perimeters (where most larvae are found) regularly scraped. Preventing midge bites is almost impossible and Dutch experience reports that housing stock at dawn and dusk to avoid midges was not really effective. The EC vaccination policy aims to reduce clinical disease and losses and contain the spread of disease both within infected countries and BTV-free countries. It needs to be done for at least three years with close to 100% cover in the infected zone and buffer zone.
10. Will there be enough vaccine to go round?
DEFRA has ordered 20m doses for England and 2.5m for Wales. Demand is likely to be greater than supply in the first month or so, but will depend on how many farmers buy the vaccine throughout the summer.
11. Why are you unable to predict when it will be ready and in what amounts?
This is a new product, which we are producing in bulk for the first time. Vaccine production is a biological process and yields vary between batches, so it is not always possible to predict exactly when it will available to the market.
12. Where do you get it from?
The virus was isolated in 2006 in Holland from a cow infected with the disease, then cultured in our labs.
13. Do I have to vaccinate all my animals?
Yes, if you want to stop the disease spreading through your own herd and to the rest of the country.
14. Do I have to use a new needle for each animal?
No, but we recommend you use an automatic vaccination/multi-injector gun.
15. Is the vaccine proven to work?
As part of the licensing process we have provided the VMD with studies demonstrating the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety.
16. What are the movement rules for vaccinated animals?
Under EU law, vaccination can only be carried out within a designated protection zone (PZ). Vaccinated livestock will be able to move subject to specific conditions, so check the DEFRA, Welsh Assembly or Scottish Government websites for the latest information.
17. If the PZ suddenly moves and I find myself in it, what do I do?
Ensure you know how many animals you have of both cattle and sheep. Inform your vet and ask to be alerted as soon as they have vaccine in stock.
18. What can I do now, before the vaccine is available?
As above. Plan how you will get all stock in to vaccinate them and make sure that when you get the vaccine, you will be able to do the whole herd in one go. Also be aware of any certification or declaration you may require according to DEFRA rules should you want to move your animals outside the PZ. It may also be advisable to consider vector control by using licensed insecticide such as pour-on deltamathrin. Butox SWISH is the only licensed pour-on with trial data showing it is effective against midges.