Agriculture: Foot and Mouth Disease

House of Lords written question – answered on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Burnett Lord Burnett Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what research they have commissioned to assess the efficacy of vaccinating livestock against foot and mouth disease; and when they expect to take a decision on that matter.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra currently supports a significant programme of research on foot and mouth disease (FMD) including, to develop strategies for the most efficacious use of currently available vaccines. This is supplemented by further research to develop improved/novel vaccine candidates. A vaccination protocol has also been published on the Defra website:

In the event of an outbreak, the National Emergency Epidemiology Group (NEEG) leads on the surveillance and epidemiological investigations, working closely with animal health to co-ordinate activity in the field, using modelling capabilities when appropriate. The VLA have a model for FMD (Exodis-FMDT ) which has been designed to assess a range of disease control strategies, one of which is vaccination of cattle, taking into account all the factors that are required under the FMD directive. Defra also has call off contracts in place with Genus PLC, to establish operational vaccination centres within five days. We also work closely with industry representatives through the FMD Core Group to assist in the decision making process.

A decision to vaccinate can be made by the Secretary of State only once an outbreak has been confirmed using all the evidence available to her. The Secretary of State is obliged under Regulations 9 and 10 of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (Control of Vaccination) (England) Regulations 2006 (2006/183) to consider the case for vaccination for FMD from the outset of a confirmed outbreak, and to publish the decision once it has been made.

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Mary Critchley
Posted on 16 Feb 2011 7:56 pm (Report this annotation)

The link given by Lord Henley to DEFRA's vaccination protocol leads only to a page telling us that it is from the out of date DEFRA site. Who is advising Lord Henley? Cannot DEFRA even manage to give a link to its own current website?

We are utterly tired of hearing about such things as "modelling capabilities" when no apology has yet been offered for the flawed model from Imperial College that set the hated and unnecessary contihguous cull in motion. (Unnecessary because by mid March 2001 the disease was already past its peak and farms around UPs needed only close surveillance, not panicky killing.)

Research for better vcaccines? High potency vaccines are excellent, conferring full protection within 5 days. Antigens to make the appropriate vaccine are readily available. Indeed, in 2007, the vaccines available within spitting distance of the Surrey outbreak, at Pirbright from where the leaked virus came, were perfect (evidently) for the strain that escaped - and yet all the old dubious reasons for not vaccinating were given.

It is well past time for prevarication. We need a proper independent cost benefit analysis since that done by Risk Solutions was one-sided and wholly unsatisfactory.

Time to cut the Gordian Knot and have a decent, easily understood Contingency Plan that all can understand, respect, and follow. It's just a matter of time before we get FMD here again - and it will be too late then to wish everything were properly in place for a quick solution.