Heath defends government on bovine TB vaccinations

Farm minister David Heath has rejected suggestions that the government is dragging its heels when it comes to introducing a cattle vaccination for bovine TB.

Giving evidence to MPs last month, Mr Heath said that introducing the BCG vaccine was a very long process and there was a big difference between having a viable vaccine and getting to the point where it could be legally used in the UK.

“It really is a nonsense to suggest that we could do this tomorrow if only we were not so stupid and obstinate as to refuse to do it,” he told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee.

“Nothing would delight me more than to have an effective vaccine as part of an array of told that we can use for bovine TB and at the earliest opportunity, but the fact remains that we have this conundrum that we have, up until now, not been able to event test it in UK conditions.”

During the evidence session on 19 March, Neil Parish MP (Cons, Tiverton and Honiton) asked what DEFRA was doing to get information about the timing of cattle vaccine out into the public domain.

“I am pretty certain that lots of people think that this cattle vaccine is only a year or two away; it is going to cure all of our problems, when we do need actually to deal with infected wildlife, as well as infected cattle,” he said.

“It has to be absolutely clear to the public. We have to honest with the public exactly where and on what timescale this vaccine will or will not be available.”

In response chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Boyd said a TB eradication strategy would be published by June,

“What we expect that to show is what all the methods are available for eradication, where they are going to come on line and what their contribution is going to be to the ultimate eradication of TB.

“That has to be expressed in very plain language and it has to be expressed very clearly.”

For more on this topic

See our bovine TB and badger cull page


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