Sunday, August 15, 2004

"In the absence of a Wildlife reservoir......." Vaccination.

Parliamentary Questions 25. March 2004 col 989W.

Mr. Bradshaw.
"Evidence from other countries shows that, in the absence of a significant wildlife reservoir, (of Tb ) cattle controls based on regular testing, and slaughter (of reactors), inspection at slaughterhouses, and movement restrictions including tracing and contiguous testing, can be effective at controlling bovine Tb without vaccination."

So there we have it from the horse's mouth (or at least Mr. Bradshaw's) - no need for vaccination at all.
The Intradermal skin test is just fine and used all over the world in accordance with OIE (Office of International Epizootics) and EU (64/432/EEC) rules.

The difference in the UK is that we do have a ' significant wildlife reservoir', the establishment of which has been encouraged over time by generous donations to both political parties, culminating with £1 million from the Political Animal Lobby to Labour in 1997. This stopped any action whatsoever on infected badgers after cattle breakdowns.
Defra spent £74 million on Tb in 2003. That £1 million was value for money then?

Old Stripey's pretty face also appears on collecting boxes for the majority of the Wildlife Trusts, which isn't much use if you happen to be the only black and white animal actually tested for Tb, and which seems to have escaped PAL's title definition - a cow.

There is however, much faith placed in the vaccination myth, and Mr. Bradshaw is not the only politician to think it will get him off the hook without killing a single badger. (Losing a single vote?)

For the last 30 years, farmers have heard the Holy Grail of 'vaccination' promised within a time scale of 10 / 15 years- and the time scale is the only constant in the whole fairy tale.

M. bovis has 29 different strains and a single jab can only protect against 1 main and a couple of secondary strains. It would be like giving your granny an annual flu jab for Asian flu, when the strain which flies into her Christmas stocking is from Hong Kong.
So which strain do we choose to inject, and just how much protection could be afforded against the overwhelming exposure to m.bovis suspended in badger urine? (300,000 units in 1ml - 30ml voided at a time and just 70units needed to infect a cow)

The regulatory process to process a medicinary vaccination license is as lengthy as it is expensive.
Parliamentary Question 23 March Col 686W, asked how long was the time scale for such a vaccine. The answer (for which we are indebted to Mr. Bradshaw):
"a time scale of approximately 2 years" after its "development, field trials, safety and efficicacy assessments." I think he means we' re back to that elusive 10/15 years again.

We also have to have EU permission to vaccinate. It is no longer our choice.
Meanwhile, the EU tells us that vaccination will not replace the skin test, so any cattle Reactors will have to be blood tested to confirm their status. Are they a Reactor to their vaccination, or a Reactor to exposure to Tb?
That multiplies the cost of testing.

How much is Defra spending on developing a vaccine?
£1.6 million out of the Tb budget in 2003. The budget was £74 million.
(Really important then?).

Has the EU been approached to help fund vaccine research?
Defra applied, but were told "It is a UK problem, and of no benefit anywhere else."
(That's a 'No' then?)

BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin) has been tried in both badgers and cattle.
It is ineffective in cattle, but the Irish are trialling it in badgers, using baited chocolate drops.
SVS see a problem with this in the potential contamination of cattle skin tests when (and it has happened) cattle take a fancy to the 'badger chocolate drops' loaded with BCG. That animal will then be Reactor at the next skin test. But what's another dead cow in the interests of 'science'.

In 1986 we slaughtered just 638 cattle.

Keep focused readers : "In the absence of a wildlife reservoir ...."

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