19 July 2002

Union leaders relax hardline approach to F&M vaccination

By Isabel Davies and Shelley Wright

FARM leaders have accepted that emergency vaccination could be used as part of a strategy to tackle future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.

The unions have been criticised for standing in the way of plans to introduce vaccination at the height of last years outbreak.

They claimed there were too many questions unanswered and it was better to proceed with a culling policy.

The NFU said the Great Britain Royal Society report importantly stated the UK should try to retain its disease free status without routine vaccination.

But union president Ben Gill added: "The NFU supports the reports recommendation that emergency vaccination should be considered as an option alongside the slaughter of infected animals and dangerous contacts as part of an overall control strategy during any future F&M outbreak."

NFU Scotland insisted vaccination was not an option during last years outbreak but it accepted it could be used in future after a separate inquiry into F&M by the Royal Society of Edinburgh released its report on how best to tackle F&M in the future.

But the NFUS said that was only if there was no risk of vaccinated animals being carriers of the disease and that vaccinated stock could be distinguished from those infected with the virus.

Shadow DEFRA secretary David Lidington said the Royal Societies findings provided a balanced assessment of the role that vaccination could play in future.

"There are still some important scientific and technical questions to be resolved," he said.

"But they are right to ask ministers to start planning now how emergency vaccination could be used as part of a strategy to combat future outbreaks of disease." &#42

Mapping out the future… The Royal Society reports focussed on how any future outbreaks of F&M should be handled.