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The bluetongue Protection Zone in England
will shortly reach the Scottish Border.
What is Scotland going to do?

James Irvine

Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie, Perthshire

Filed 22 Aug 08


As anticipated on this website (1), the additional supplies of bluetongue vaccine serotype 8 from Merial are enabling the authorities in England (Defra) to extend their voluntary bluetongue vaccination programme to include the whole of England: that is, right up to the Scottish Border. Defra has warned livestock farmers in Cumbria and Northumberland that they have until the end of this month (31st August) to move livestock into Scotland from what remains of the bluetongue-free zone in England, if that is what they want to do to maintain trade with Scotland. At some unspecified date soon after that, movements of livestock into Scotland from Cumbria and Northumberland (along with elsewhere in England) will only be allowed if the animals have been vaccinated by a vet in such a manner as to enable full immunity, and there is a certificate to prove it. It takes two months after the first jab for cattle to be considered to be fully immunised.

So what will be Scotland's position?

Because the Scottish Government did not get around to ordering its 12 million doses of vaccine until 27th June 2008 - and, therefore, was well down the queue in the huge international demand for vaccine supplies - it does not currently have any vaccine. Indeed, it is only scheduled to get one, or possibly two, million doses as a contingency in September, with further batches at intervals up till the beginning of the Vector Free Period (VFP) sometime in December 2008.

Clearly, Defra has paid little heid to the illogical pleas from the NFU Scotland to stop vaccination and to leave Cumbria and Northumberland as a vaccine-free and hopefully bluetongue-free zone, waiting with fingers crossed for the VFP to arrive.

But it is alleged that the uptake of voluntary bluetongue vaccination in the areas south of Cumbria and Northumberland has been alarmingly low, at only some 40 - 45%. That would not be enough to provided a reliable barrier to the spread of bluetongue disease.

If that is indeed the case, then it is in the interests of Cumbria and Northumberland as well as Scotland that vaccination is extended as soon as possible to the whole of England. That at least should help provide a barrier to the spread of bluetongue virus into northern England.

But the crazy EC rules insist that livestock within all Protection Zones - whether they have active disease or not - must be allowed to move freely within these Protection Zones. That means that bluetongue virus-carrying livestock will shortly be legitimately allowed to move right up to the Scottish Border, whether they come from England (which is awaiting its first resurrgent case) or else where in the EU (where disease is rife). All the midges have to do is to carry the virus from an infected cow, sheep or goat over the metaphorical fence that defines England from Scotland. But Scotland has no vaccine, and is not due to get enough for too long, because of the bureaucratic bungling that has prevented the ordering of the vaccine in time.

Should Scotland start vaccinating for bluetongue serotype 8 as soon as it gets its first one million doses, or should it wait? Whenever it starts in Scotland it is to be on a compulsory basis. But even if Scotland managed to start with its first million doses by the first of October, cattle would not be fully protected until the first of December, although sheep would be by early November. But that is when the risk of bluetongue spread is on the decline.

Therefore, because of the lamentable lack of vaccine, Scotland will be left with an unacceptably high risk of getting bluetongue before the VFP arrives. While Scotland may. 'get away with it', it is not a risk its livestock farmers should be faced with. Especially with such a dire disease as bluetongue.


1. Irvine, James (2008). Bad EC rules lead to bad consequences: incredibly NFU Scotland calls for a stop to bluetongue vaccination
See HOMEPAGE, filed 20 Aug 08, www.land-care.org.uk Click Here to View