A badger being vaccinated and sprayed with dye to identify it©FLPA/John Hawkins/Rex Shutterstock

The Welsh government has suspended its programme to vaccinate badgers against TB due to a global shortage of BCG vaccine.

The World Health Organization has called on all countries to review their use of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine to ensure preventing TB in humans takes priority.

As a result, Wales’ deputy minister for food and farming Rebecca Evans  announced that the Welsh government had suspended sourcing of BCG for badger vaccination in Wales.

See also: Badger vaccination cost £700 per badger in Wales

West Wales is in the fourth year of a five-year programme within the intensive action area (IAA) and two years into private vaccination grants.

“Bovine TB is a serious animal health issue. However, public health must always take priority,” said Mrs Evans.

“And until the supply situation is resolved our badger vaccination projects currently under way in Wales – which include year five of the IAA project, and parts of the Badger Vaccination Grant scheme – will be suspended.

“But this does not mean that the hard work of the previous years will have been wasted. We have successfully administered more than 5,500 doses during that time.”

Wales introduced badger vaccination in May 2012 within the IAA, a 288sq km area primarily located in north Pembrokeshire where bovine TB is endemic, after plans to cull badgers were abandoned.

Plaid Cymru’s rural affairs minister Elin Jones had proposed a badger cull in the area, considered a TB hotspot, when her party was in coalition with Labour. But Labour scrapped the plans in favour of vaccination.

A pilot cull of badgers in TB hotspot counties is currently under way in England as part of efforts to eradicate the disease.

Plaid Cymru rural affairs spokesman Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “This is shocking news that will make a complete mockery of the vaccination trial.

“The Labour government should be ashamed that it could have let this happen.

“Four years ago, many of us argued for a different approach but the government was insistent on vaccination. Now there is a risk that we will have wasted four years.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said it was “disappointing news” and a “significant blow” to Wales’ TB eradication programme.

Neil Paton, president of BVA Welsh branch, said: “We urge Welsh government to reconsider its eradication programme as a matter of urgency, particularly in relation to wildlife control.

“We welcome the move to commission modelling work to evaluate the impact of suspension and we are keen to work with the government to identify an evidence-based solution to this problem so that any potential progress made in Wales is not lost.”