DEFRA has announced its plan for phasing bluetongue vaccinations, stressing that the overriding aim is to “facilitate the rapid transfer of vaccine into animals as soon as it becomes available”.

The plan, which has been agreed with industry bodies, states that vaccine will be made available on a county-by-county basis. The first counties to be treated will be those where the disease is known to have been circulating this year or last year, and where epidemiological evidence suggests risk.

Counties where there is a risk from animal movements – that are close to known infected premises – which are at risk from the wind-borne spread of infected midges and with high densities of cattle and sheep, will be next.

But the unpredictability of the disease, in particular the way new outbreaks shift zone boundaries and the variability of disease levels in zones, makes it difficult to predict exactly when and where vaccine will be made available, it says. The industry should be prepared for revisions and flexibility in the plan.

In May, Intervet will start supplying the 20m doses for use in England and 2.5m doses for use in Wales, subject to final batch testing. The company has signalled that at least 3m doses will be available initially, and hopes the figure could be as high as 5m doses. Weekly updates on supply will be provided, with doses delivered until August.

DEFRA will supply vaccine for use in protection zones only, on a county-by-county basis. But with current zones likely to expand, and the possibility that a single restricted zone could cover the whole of England by early summer, the roll-out of vaccination is difficult to call, it stresses.

A protocol for drawing-up the priority list of counties for vaccination has been agreed. The list will be reviewed by DEFRA, bluetongue experts and the core industry group, taking into account disease progression and veterinary risk. Vaccine will be used in the highest priority counties first, working down the list until the existing batch is exhausted. Subsequent batches will be used to work down the list, which will be updated as the season progresses.

The intention is for 100% vaccine uptake in each county. However, usage may be lower, in which case unused vaccine will be allocated to the next county, DEFRA said.

VACCINATION PRIORITY LIST

1. Premises, local areas or counties with the highest weight of infection:

  • known circulating disease in 2007
  • known circulating disease in 2008
  • epidemiological evidence

2. Counties at highest risk of receiving infection:

a. which zone the county is in (PZ, SZ or free area – as an indication of likely risk from animal movements)

b. proximity to known infected premises

c. meteorological data (ie likelihood of wind-borne spread of infected midges)

d. density of cattle and sheep population

3. Counties in the remainder restricted zone (PZ & SZ):

As for 2 b-d.

4. Counties in the remaining areas of England:

As for 2 b-d.

VACCINE PRICING

Vaccine amount   Cost/ml  Wholesale price/bottle
 50ml 55-66p  £22.02
 20ml  82-98p  £13.10