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release concerning tendering
for Bluetongue v8 vaccine makes
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Filed 02 Nov 07
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs (Defra) issued a news release on 1st November 2007 stating
that Defra is to issue a tender for a Bluetongue vaccine bank (1).
It makes incredulous reading.
The news release confirms that the UK has no Bluetongue
serotype 8 (BTv8) vaccine: neither in any bank or currently on order
from any vaccine manufacturer. Defra has only now reached the stage
of putting out to tender the UK's supposed requirements for BTv8
But the high risk of BTv8 reaching the UK has
been recognised for well over a year, and the devastating consequences
for UK livestock, if the virus got into the UK, have also well known.
Vaccine manufacturers are not charities: they
are commercial organisations. Understandably, they will only make
new vaccines if they have commercially viable contracts from somewhere
so to do.
The wording of the defra News Release (reporting
Secretary of State for Environment, Hilary Benn) that
"no suitable vaccine is currently available
for the strain of Bluetongue circulating in England (serotype
is highly disingenuous. Neither he, nor his predecessors,
have got around to ordering the manufacture of any. And still have
The News Release goes on to say
"However, several companies have have vaccines
in development and these are expected to be available next summer"
But that is because other EU Member States (and
possibly other countries outwith the EU) are organising substantial
orders for many millions of doses for which the EC is willing to
pay in a drive to rid the EU of the disease. Intervet, one of the
major companies involved, has made it publicly, and unequivocally,
known that there is no problem making a new vaccine to BTv8. They
just need the commercial orders and the time to do it - some 6 to
9 months, according to ongoing other commitments.
So with all the advanced warning of the likelihood
of BT v8 coming to southern England - and then rapidly spreading
northwards within the UK - why was the tendering process for BTv8
vaccine bank not started many months ago? Instead, we were advised
to be "vigilant with surveillance and biosecurity", in
the full knowledge that the midge vector cannot be effectively controlled
however had we try. The only effective weapon against BTv8 is vaccination.
Vaccination is designed to prevent disease getting
a hold. Vaccines are very effective in doing so, if they are used
in advance of the arrival of the disease in question. They also
do have a use after the disease has got a hold in reducing the viral
load and reducing transmission, but the task is much greater.
While the UK appears to be at the end of the queue
for ordering BTv8 vaccine, why is it that other EU Member States
have also been so tardy. They are currently suffering severely from
the consequences of their delay. The devastation currently being
caused by BTv8 in continental Europe is what is likely to happen
to at least part of the UK once the midges get going again next
But, as stated in the defra News Release, the
UK's supply of vaccine is not anticipated to be available until
"next summer". Since all vaccines work by inducing appropriate
immune defences, they take time to be effective: perhaps another
3 - 4 weeks. So we are heading to miss the timing for the optimum
use of the vaccine.
It would appear that the EC, who controls the
use of vaccines throughout the EU, has been wasting endless time
arguing about trade matters, rather than trying to get to grips
with the disease itself. Why were our UK representatives at Brussels
not insisting on a logical vaccination programme that could be delivered
at a time when it would be most effective?
But read the weazel words of Secretary of State,
"Whilst we are at the early stages of this
outbreak, it is sensible for us to plan ahead and tender for a
vaccine bank given the potential benefits vaccination could provide
in managing the disease should it re-appear next year"
"We hope this tending process will reassure
the farming industry that we are committed to having a vaccine
supply ready as soon as vaccine become available. We will have
a vaccine bank that farmers will be able to purchase from and
I am sure the benefits of vaccination will make real economic
sense to many farmers"
So the endless and mindless spin of the Blair
Government is clearly hale and hearty under Gordon Brown. Farmers,
as with everyone else, need better than that. Spin can be defined
as walking the tight rope between truth and deception. We appear
to be getting aan ovderdose of deception.
What is all this about farmers buying the vaccine
from the vaccine bank, while the EC is prepared to pay for it, but
only if asked and in a way that meets with its approval? The EC
has also stated that it is prepared to pay for half the vaccination
costs in its attempt to get the EU clear of BT.
The Defra News Release seems to infer that BTv8
vaccination may be a voluntary choice on the part of farmers. Of
course it would not be effective if it was.
Staggeringly, at this very late date, the Defra
News Release concludes by saying
"Further discussions are underway with
scientific experts on Bluetongue, representatives of the farming
industry, and others on how a vaccination programme could work.
Discussion are also continuing on possible approaches to vaccination
within the European Commission and other Member States affected
What, may it be asked, have Defra been doing all
this time? for the last 12 months in fact. Keeping their fingers
crossed that it will be a hard winter both in Continental Europe
and in the UK, so that the BT virus will die off? No chance. Even
their own "world leading" climate change propaganda would
advise them otherwise.
Finally, how does Defra know how many doses of
BTv8 vaccine to order, if they have still not worked out how vaccination
may be used? The number of doses stated in the News Release, at
10 - 20 million, seems grossly inadequate for an effective preventative
vaccination programme. A classical "too little, too late"
scenario is on the cards.
Just who is advising Defra on these matters?
It is interesting that the Royal College of Veterinary
Surgeons has recognised the severe shortfall in veterinarians trained
in virology and immunology (and of course vaccination, which is
a combination of the two). They are offering five bursaries of £2,500
each to attend their infectious diseases courses, The RCVS claim
"Students who graduate from the course
will be ideally placed for key jobs in government departments,
guiding policy on how to manage and control outbreaks of disease"
And who is going to teach them?
Again, is it very much too little, and far too
1. Defra (2007). News release.
Government tenders for Bluetongue vaccine.
Here to View pdf
2. Woolcock, Nicola (2007). Experts
"urgently needed" in the fight against infectious diseases
The Times. October 29, 2007