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Bird flu vaccine ordered despite concerns
posted by admin on 13/07/06
The farm ministry issued a tender on Tuesday for 10 million doses of bird flu vaccine, responding to requests from organic free-range poultry producers.
The decision, taken on the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer, was made despite previous statements from the ministry saying that vaccines could mask the presence of bird flu and so assist its spread.
"This does not change our policy and the CVO's advice remains that we should not vaccinate poultry in advance of an avian influenza outbreak because of the well documented limitations of vaccines currently available," a statement said.
The ministry said the move was part of "sensible contingency planning in the light of uncertainties relating to the future spread and nature of the virus."
The European Union has allowed Europe's two largest poultry producers, France and the Netherlands, to vaccinate hens, ducks and geese against a deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Supporters of vaccination say the benefits outweigh the risks. Organic producers have backed the use of vaccines as an alternative to locking birds indoors, which would threaten their poultry's free-range status.
"This latest positive announcement will be a great relief to our poultry farmers," Anna Bassett, poultry adviser for organic certification body the Soil Association, said.
The farm ministry said the tender would be in addition to the 2.3 million doses of vaccine bought earlier this year for possible preventive vaccination of zoo birds.
The vaccine sought could be used against both the H5 and H7 strains of the disease.
A deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 100 people and millions of bird since 2003 as it spread from Asia to Europe and Africa. A dead wild swan with the disease was discovered in Scotland earlier this year but there have been no cases in Britain among domestic poultry or humans.
There was also an outbreak of an H7N3 strain of bird flu among domestic poultry in eastern England earlier this year. The strain is less dangerous to humans than H5N1.
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