DEFRA urged to allow vaccine production at Pirbright

Pressure is mounting on DEFRA to allow bluetongue vaccine production to restart.

Animal health company Merial was developing a vaccine at its Pirbright laboratory when the foot-and-mouth outbreak began and DEFRA banned live virus production at the site.

If the ban is lifted and work begins again immediately, it is possible that a vaccine for bluetongue type 8 could be available before the height of the next midge season.

Merial spokesman Philip Connolly told Farmers Weekly: “Provided we can resume virus production in October, we should be able to supply vaccines to the market by early summer next year, in time for farmers to vaccinate at the crucial time.”

Merial is already at the stage of transferring production of a vaccine for BTV-8 from research and development to full-scale manufacturing. However, because of the projected demand for vaccines, Mr Connolly said having adequate time to produce thousands of doses would be crucial.

DEFRA has said it is hopeful that live vaccine production at Merial’s Pirbright site will resume within weeks, but said any approval would depend on the results of further inspections.

“It is important to be confident that the facilities at the site are operating to the highest standards of biosecurity,” said a DEFRA spokesman.

Meanwhile Intervet, another manufacturer of animal health products, is in the testing stages of producing a vaccine for BTV8 “as fast as we can”, according to veterinary manager Alastair King.

“We started researching a vaccine in 2006, when the need for one became obvious. Before then, it was unclear which serotype would become prevalent in northern Europe.”


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