Vaccination against bluetongue should be the cornerstone of our fight against the disease, according to veterinary surgeon Paul Roger.
The disease currently present in the UK cases is type 8 for which there is not yet a specific vaccine, explained Mr Roger of the Sheep Veterinary Society.
“The earliest that a type 8 vaccine may be manufactured and ready to use is early spring 2008,” Mr Roger said.
He warned against rushing into a programme using an existing vaccine designed for one of the other 24 known types of bluetongue.
“We must wait until a type 8 vaccine becomes available because using a non-specific product could make the situation worse.”
It could allow the virus to change, making it harder to destroy. Or it could mask the virus within an animal’s body only for it to resurge and infect that animal later, he explained.
The key timing for a vaccination programme to be carried out would be to have it completed before May when there is a surge in midge numbers.
“It is a huge task but vaccination should be the cornerstone in tackling the disease,” Mr Roger said.
One obstacle that could exist is that vaccination may not be allowed to be administered by anyone other than a DEFRA official.
“If that is the case there would be huge pressure on DEFRA manpower and logistics. That could cause delays and we need to move quickly,” said Mr Roger.