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Gildernew announces decision to order Bluetongue vaccine

13 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA today announced her intention to seek the necessary resources to order Bluetongue vaccine.

The announcement was made after the Minister briefed the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on her proposal to order almost 2 million doses of vaccine for use if there is an outbreak of bluetongue disease here.

Announcing the decision, the minister said: "I should make it very clear that the EU rules only allow vaccination within a protection zone. We do not have Bluetongue disease and we are not in a protection zone. Therefore, pre-emptive vaccination is not an option."

In the event that there is an outbreak of Bluetongue here and the department authorizes the use of vaccine, the programme will aim to minimize the economic effects of the disease for the industry by reducing the clinical signs and limiting the geographical spread of the disease.

The minister explained that to maximize the benefit of vaccination, at least 80% of susceptible animals must be vaccinated. She said: "I therefore propose a compulsory vaccination programme should Bluetongue arrive and become established here. The most cost effective way to do this is with farmers purchasing and administering the vaccine themselves and with a veterinary audit."

The minister stressed that farmers should not be complacent and should continue to do everything they can to prevent the disease coming here in the first place. She said: "This does not mean that we should relax our guard. We must take every precaution to continue to keep bluetongue out. But we must be realistic and prepare for the possibility that, in spite of our best efforts, the disease could arrive." ENDS

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