Saturday, June 13, 2009

Playing for time?

A letter published in Veterinary Times this week, supports Dr. Ueli Zellweger's
concerns over Defra's proposal to vaccinate badgers, endemically infected with TB, with a less than efficient BCG TB vaccine.

The letter from Dr. Lewis H. Thomas, MA, VetMB, PhD, FRCPath, MRCVS comments:
The best that can be hoped for is that DEFRA's strategy will do no harm and not make matters worse. We know that BCG may be proactive in naive [uninfected] badgers, but we have no idea what may happen in chronically infected animals. Rather than damp down infection, it is equally probable that it may light up chronic infections to become overt disease, with even more infectious bacilli shed into the environment. The likelihood of vaccination being effective in the face of massive challenge from naturally infected badgers is highly speculative.

The argument from the badger groups has always centred on this spurious difference of infected badgers v, infectious badgers. So anything that provokes a walled up lesion to beak down, is not the brightest idea, if the candidate is still alive and kicking enough to spread its lethal load. Dr. Thomas continues:
One may ask why perturbation - the opt-out excuse for rational action put forward by the Independent Scientific Group in its June 2007 report - is suddenly no longer a problem? Does DEFRA suppose catching, vaccinating and releasing badgers will be any less of a perturbation than that experienced during the randomised badger culling trials (RBCTs)? And does it suppose enough badgers will be caught to attain the 80 per cent or more cover needed to achieve meaningful protection - even assuming the vaccine is effective?
In Dr.Thomas's view, the DEFRA vaccination strategy " has not been fully researched scientifically and is unlikely to bring any practical benefit", and he concludes;
One in forced to the conclusion that, like the nine year RBCTs this latest speculative move is designed simply to buy the Government five more years when it can pretend it is doing something to stem this wretched disease that is out of control in large parts of the country.
Defra confidently expect them to come to call, and get jabbed. Remember that super cartoon showing the queue? We kid you not.

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