Defra is calling on farmers to vaccinate against Bluetongue serotype 8 ahead of the warmer weather for 2009. It takes three weeks for immunity to be established after vaccination and midge activity will resume this spring. They say there is no room for complacency as Bluetongue 8 was circulating widely in mainland Europe last year, particularly in France, with over 24000 cases. The disease could spread to the UK either through wind borne transmission or legal trade in animals.
Farmers in the East and South of England achieved a 80 to 90% vaccine uptake that ensured that the UK was free from circulating disease last year. Defra has congratulated those farmers in the following areas.
East of England (Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk)
South West (Cornwall, Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Avon, and Wiltshire) East Midlands (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire) South East (Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Isle of Wight, London and Middlesex)
However farmers in the Northern and Western counties were well below that in vaccine uptake achieving less than 60%, that is West Midlands (Hereford and Worcester, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire) North West (Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside)
North East (Co. Durham and Cleveland, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear)
Yorkshire and the Humber (Yorkshires, East Riding and Humberside)
Defra are warning that even though the high uptake in the South and East protected farmers in the rest of the country, they may not be so lucky this year. The BTV8 zone is moving northwards with cases in Denmark in 2008 and now in Norway.
Defra continues to post-import test all bluetongue susceptible animals arriving in the UK and to take proportionate action against animals infected with serotypes of bluetongue which are not or have not been circulating in this country. At present that means any serotype other than BTV8. Defra continues to ask farmers to consider the risks and to check the health and vaccination status of any animals sourced from within the UK or abroad.
Other serotypes are in circulation on the Continent, particularly BTV1 in Spain and France. Farmers should not wait to vaccinate their animals against BTV-8 in anticipation of a bivalent vaccine against BTV-1 and 8 becoming available. Defra is working closely with manufacturers and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to get a BTV-1 vaccine licensed, it is likely that bivalent vaccine for both serotypes in the same product will not be available until at least the second half of 2009, and this would still require authorisation before it could be marketed.
I vaccinated my animals last year, will they need to be vaccinated again?
All ruminants require annual booster doses.
Does vaccinating animals put them at risk of adverse reactions/ abortions?
Adverse reactions attributable to vaccination have been reported in very few animals when compared with vaccine sales of just under 16 million doses. The incidence of suspected adverse reactions is therefore very low and we remain satisfied that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks. These cases have been investigated and there is no evidence that vaccination with the bluetongue vaccine is any different to vaccination with any other vaccine.
A recent report from the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) concludes that the 2008 emergency vaccination programme has shown a good safety record for the vaccines used in EU member states last year and that overall the frequency of adverse drug reactions was very low (<1:10000).
Do you have to wait one month after giving the Bluetongue vaccine before using any other vaccines?
No trials have been conducted on the use of Bluetongue vaccines with other veterinary medicinal products. The general guidance is that vaccines should be administered 14 days apart, but you should speak to your vet for further advice.
Can I vaccinate against BTV1?
No. There is currently no BTV1 vaccine licensed for use in the UK. In addition, vaccination is only permitted within the Protection Zone, UK is not a BTV1 protection zone and vaccination would be illegal.