No TB cattle vaccine until 2023 – EU Commission

THE European Commission has told Defra that a cattle vaccine for bovine TB (bTB) is unlikely to be commercially available until 2023.

In a recent letter to Defra Secretary Owen Paterson, EU health Commissioner Tonio Borg said vaccination against bTB is ‘explicitly forbidden’ in EU legislation on disease control and in ‘intra-Union trade legislation’.

He said the main reason for the ban was, due to the ‘suboptimal protection’ from cattle vaccines, the risk that vaccinated animals may become infected but could not be distinguished from uninfected vaccinated animals because vaccination ‘interferes’ with the TB skin test.  “This would jeopardise current bTB control and eradication policy,” he said.

He said a recent vaccination workshop in Cardiff ‘clearly indicates’ that ‘many knowledge gaps’ exist concerning the performance of the ‘only available candidate, live BCG vaccine, its safety, conditions for use and the suitability of a DIVA test to distinguish infected and uninfected vaccinated animals.

He said the ‘fundamental scientific information’ necessary to change EU policy on cattle vaccination accompanied by a DIVA test was not yet available.

Mr Borg said future studies were needed to address food safety concerns, such as the shedding of vaccine strain in milk and human health concerns as BCG is the only vaccine available for humans. Its use in cattle may lead to the selection of BCG-resistant strains of bTB that may affect also humans, he said.

Research is also needed to address animal health and trade concerns, including proper discrimination between vaccinated and infected animals and the acceptability of vaccinated animals in international trade.

But he outlined a ‘tentative timeline for bTB vaccination of cattle in UK’, which indicates that a workable cattle vaccine is at least 10 years away.

2015-16: Completion of field trials on BCG vaccination.

2016-17: If scientific consensus is reached on the conditions for use of vaccine and DIVA test, vaccine to undergo marketing authorisation procedure.

2017-18: Debate on veterinary conditions to allow use of vaccine and possible authorisation.

2018-23: Practical experience using the vaccine and DIVA test under the new rules.

2023: Possible changes to EU rules on vaccinated animals and herds to enter intra-Union trade in parallel with amendments of international standards.

Mr Paterson said Mr Borg’s letter ‘recognises that we are on course to deploy a vaccine’. “The legal and scientific process could take up to 10 years. In the meantime, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal.

Readers' comments (34)

  • This cant be true, Dr Bri came back from the EU saying a vaccine was going to be available in the next couple months!!! So will he now admit that he is part of the propaganda machine?! I doubt it, he probably still thinks he knows more and that it can be done next week.

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  • @ Farmers Guardian.

    A strange spin on the letter - the EC finally accepting that cattle vaccine trials need to take place and even offering a timetable of when it can be commercially available is good news!

    @ Tom Bradley.

    No one was ever expecting vaccine to be commercially available within a couple of months.


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  • Notice it says "POSSIBLE" changes to the EU rules, not that it will be a foregone conclusion.
    I doubt the rest of Europe will like this......... that is if we are still in the EU!!!!


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  • Everbody knows that a cattle vaccine would be available sooner if there was a genuine will from those involved to want this to happen. Heads in the sand once more from Defra and NFU.

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  • Could the badger cull be the final straw that brings down this odious government. I certainly hope so.

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  • There would be a genuine will if the vaccine worked and so did the DIVA test. Plainly neither do and the time line as described above shows we are an in reality an indeterminate amount of time away. Unless and until we have a vaccine that is in excess of 90% effective it is a waste of time.

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  • I fail to see how Defra can defend itself against charge of wilful abuse of public funds if it ignores scientific proof that a badger cull will not work and may make the Bovine TB situation even worse. I strongly object to my taxes being spent on this failing policy.

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  • The Bowe group report on Bovine TB:

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  • Anonymous 8.42, 8.46, 8.49. 9.18

    No wonder you go under the names of anonymous because you sure as hell talk a load of old bull. Do you know the difference between black and white, or a cow and a horse. You are obviously incapable of any intelligent thinking. You still carry on with the same tunnel vision, the same neurotic views and STILL BADGERS GO ON SPREADING TB TO EVERY MAMMAL THEY COME INTO CONTACT WITH. Get over yourselves. It's just as well scientists, vets and health officers who are in the know, realise the REALITY of what is happening in the real world.

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  • Chive,
    Please don't try and spin the facts again. You know very well that the BCG vaccine only works in SOME neonatal calves and then one third of them will go on to develop bTB infections within two years.

    If you knew anything at all about cattle farming you would realise that we can't sustain the national herd at less than two years of age and that if a third of all cattle in the UK have bTB as a result of vaccination then 2 % of all badger in the UK will die every year from bovine TB anyway.

    The infection will burn slowly through the environment and human infection rates will explode.

    Spent yesterday reading bTB tests. My cattle were going up the walls. We passed the tests but having seen cattle being slaughtered, I am convinced that bTB testing is far more distressing for cattle because they think that the extreme pain of the injection into the skin (hence where all nerve endings are and they are the most sensitive rather than under the skin where it would hurt as much) is coming again.

    Chive you need to come to a farm like mine and get in there with the cattle yourself.

    So you see I absolutely do not want to have to test my cattle every time I want to earn a living and sell some. I don't want my cattle to have to be culled as a result of reactor and I don't want any of the badgers on my land to be culled either.

    If you are who I think you are, then you will know that I have gone out of my way to protect the badgers on my land in the past, at great personal risk.

    BUT the fact is that vaccinating cattle with the BCG is not going to work. Vaccinating badgers is even more ridiculous because there is no way anyone is going to catch 100 % of them. But in those vaccinated only half will show some immunity to M. bovis for just a year.




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