Can Animals be Vaccinated against Foot and Mouth Disease?

Vaccination was abandoned in 1991 because the EU had successfully eradicated FMD. This decision has saved over 1 billion and allowed EU producers to export to countries which only allow imports from FMD-free countries not following a vaccination policy. In the discussions on FMD to date, no Member State has signalled that it wishes to abandon the current policy. However, the Community does maintain a antigen bank with up to 30 million individual doses of vaccine. These are envisaged in a situation where there is an outbreak of epidemic proportions where the authorities must introduce "preventive vaccination", i.e. action to halt the spread of the disease pending the destruction of potentially contaminated animals.

Will the Commission review its non-vaccination policy?

All Member States agree that vaccination is not justified in the current circumstances where the outbreak is limited in scale and confined to one Member State. There are also very significant logistical and cost implications in vaccination, twice yearly, of a Community livestock population of over 300 million susceptible animals. Moreover, vaccination is only effective in relation to the strain of FMD concerned and offers no protection against other strains of the virus. Finally, the loss of the EU's non-vaccination status would involve substantial loss of trade to third countries which insist on imports from foot and mouth free countries. In summary, therefore, the costs of vaccination hugely outweigh the benefits. Nonetheless, this situation will be kept under review.

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