Scientists to probe TB vaccine trial

Scientists are to probe the confidence of farmers in the government’s badger vaccine trial aimed at combating bovine tuberculosis.

The Bovine TB Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP) is due to be launched this summer.

It will be accompanied by a social science study to assess the level of farmer confidence in the use of vaccine to combat bovine TB.

The study will be led by the Countryside and Community Research Institute, based at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Badgers will be vaccinated in six different locations with high incidence of bovine TB.

Farms representing an equivalent of 100sq km have been recruited in each area.

The areas chosen for the vaccination project are in Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Devon.

The four-year study will then assess the level of farmer confidence in the use of vaccination before, during and after vaccine deployment.

It will also identify motivators and barriers that could influence the future use of TB vaccines.

DEFRA is funding the study to the tune of just over £630,000. It is being led by Dr Damian Maye.

“There are a lot of strong views among the farming community on the issue of bovine TB and whether culling or vaccination is the best way forward,” he said.

A baseline study will assess the views of 75 farmers in eight separate areas before the vaccine trial is rolled out.

They will be asked their views on vaccination as a means of dealing with bovine TB.

Once the vaccine programme is under way, a smaller group of farmers in each area will be asked to give an account of their experience of the process.

Dr Maye said livestock producers would be asked whether their views on vaccination had changed and why.

“Over the life of the project we will be able to build up a picture of attitudes which may affect farmers’ future use of bovine TB vaccines,” he said.

This would help uncover any lessons to be learned and practical know-how developed to inform the use of injectable and oral badger vaccines.

The CCRI is a collaboration between Gloucestershire University, the University of the West of England, Royal Agricultural College and Hartpury College.

Government scientists and researchers from Exeter and Cardiff universities and Drew Associates are also involved in the study.