No end in sight to badger TB vaccine shortage

Dozens of badger vaccination schemes that form part of the government’s strategy to tackle bovine TB remain suspended across England amid a global vaccine shortage, Farmers Weekly has learned.

The Welsh government announced it had suspended its badger vaccination programme in north Pembrokeshire at the end of December 2015.

Due to a global shortage of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, Defra has also been required to suspend all of its funding for badger vaccination for an indefinite period.

See also: Badger TB vaccination cost tops £800

At this time of the year, trained vaccinators would normally be out in force administering jabs to badgers in the field. But six months on from the announcement, projects up and down the country have been postponed.

Twelve Wildlife Trust badger vaccination projects in England and one in Wales are currently suspended.

Defra’s Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS), which targets badgers in areas close to bovine TB hotspots, has also been suspended, with schemes in the Peak District, west Berkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire on hold.

A number of part-funded Defra schemes in Cheshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Gloucestershire have also been affected.

This week, it emerged the West Cornwall Badger Vaccination Initiative has been suspended, with vaccines likely to be unavailable until at least May 2017. 

No alternative badger TB vaccines

There are no alternative sources to the Badger BCG vaccine approved for use in badgers in England. However, Defra plans to resume sourcing the vaccine as soon as supply issues are resolved.

According to Defra, each dose of badger BCG vaccine equates to 10 human adult or 20 infant doses.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Advice from Public Health England is vaccination should only be made available to humans and that animal use of BCG should be restricted during this period of vaccine shortage to conserve global supplies.

“Badger vaccination is one part of our long-term plan, which also includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, improving biosecurity on farm and when trading, and badger control in areas where TB is rife.

“This comprehensive approach has worked overseas and is supported by the government and Defra chief scientists and leading vets.”

Vaccination ‘has role to play’

The NFU believes badger vaccination “has a role to play” in helping to stop the spread of the disease in areas currently at low risk of bovine TB.

The union’s director general, Martin Haworth, has said he hopes the supply issue can be resolved as quickly as possible to allow work to continue.