The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) has announced the decision to stockpile several hundred million doses of avian influenza (AI) vaccine, including a Ceva vaccine (Vectormune® AI) as one of the two selected. This follows the destruction of nearly 50 million domestic poultry birds already this year, due to outbreaks occurring across 15 states.
This year has seen the worst epizootic (large local outbreak) of highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) ever in the US and despite the outbreak seemingly now under control, there are fears that AI could reappear this autumn. The mass cull of birds, which the USDA estimated cost more than $500 million, presented real challenges in terms of finding sufficient landfill sites to accommodate the huge volume of infected carcasses, presenting additional issues in working with local communities.
Dr Mark Davidson, Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Import Export Services at the United States Department of Agriculture stated recently at a world poultry congress that: “We have taken tremendous effort to prepare for this fall, on the potential that there may be additional introductions (of AI) as the migratory birds come back from the north.” He continued, “We will be prepared to vaccinate if necessary.”
Dr Yannick Gardin, Director of Science and Innovation at Ceva, one of two companies awarded the contract, said today that: "Many dogmas have grown up surrounding the control of AI. Countries who decided to vaccinate were viewed as ‘bad’ because they were seen to have a problem with the disease. This is no longer appropriate though, given the changeable nature of the AI virus, which is now able to survive for long periods of time in wildfowl (migratory birds). These birds are moving rapidly over huge distances and constantly mixing with other birds, which means that epizootics of unpredictable importance can now erupt in many areas across the globe, and no longer stay exclusively locally endemic. No country can be considered as safe and preventative health programmes, such as vaccination programmes, should therefore be implemented to take account of this.”
Avian Influenza has changed dramatically in the last few years. To date, 2015 has seen 357 individual outbreaks of avian influenza reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which is a staggering 147% increase on outbreaks reported in 2014. About 31 countries reported outbreaks already in 2015.
While APHIS has not approved the use of vaccine to respond to AI, this stockpiling shows that the Agency is preparing to ensure that vaccine is available should the decision be made to use it during a future outbreak.
 USDA information site, http://tinyurl.com/l75hk53
 OIE data, http://www.oie.int/en/animal-health-in-the-world/update-on-avian-influenza/2015/
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