A bovine TB vaccination will not be effective in badgers until at least 2020, the former president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association has warned.

While a badger vaccine is expected to be developed by 2014, it would take more than five years before any effects would be seen, BCVA’s Andy Biggs said.

“Badgers infected with TB prior to vaccination will still be able to transmit the disease to cattle. So until 2020 it is unlikely we will see any positive effects from controlling the disease with a vaccine,” he said.

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn announced on Monday (7 July) he would make £20m available to develop a TB vaccine over the next three years.

This was in addition to the £18m which has already been invested over the last decade.

bovine TB vaccine vaccination badger

Of the £20m announced for vaccine development, only half is new money

While Mr Benn admitted it would be “some time” before an oral vaccine for badgers or a cattle vaccine became available, he said the investment would speed up the development.

Junior DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker said the earliest projected date for widespread use of a cattle vaccine was 2015, while an oral badger vaccine would be available by 2014.

An injectable badger vaccine would be ready for use by 2010, but cost and the practicalities of administering it meant it was not expected to be widely used, he added.

Even when a vaccine was developed, EU law would need to be changed to allow the vaccination of cattle against TB.

“These things are not around the corner,” he said.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers criticised the £20m announced by the government towards vaccine development, claiming it represented “little new funding”.

“Almost half of the £20 million funding had already been allocated for vaccine research, leaving only the remainder as likely new money,” Lyndon Edwards, RABDF chairman said.

“We also wonder who is going to pay for and administer these vaccines, in particular that for badgers.”