We talked about the concept of badger vaccination well over a year ago, and when Defra announced its planned vaccination programme would only be in hotspot areas, we updated our comments.
Today, we were not alone. Farmers Guardian report that a Swiss-trained vet, now based in South West England, has said Defra’s plan to inject badgers was ‘guaranteed to backfire’, as there were only two ‘golden rules’ regarding vaccination – and this would break both of them.
The first rule was to ‘never, never vaccinate a stressed or weakened animal’, but trapping and manually injecting badgers would do just that, he said.But this is Defra we're talking about. And vaccinating endemically infected badgers against a disease which they already have, is a decision made by a career bureaucrat - our minister for (some) Animal Health, Hilary Benn, MP. Is he walking on water? We think so.
Stress compromised the immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine, but more seriously, a weak badger would fall down the social pecking order and be forced out of the sett, increasing perturbation.
A displaced badger trying to join a sett would lead to fighting, with a high risk of TB transmission. A weakened badger with no sett would be more likely to forage in a farmyard, depositing infected excretions (saliva, urine and faeces), putting cattle at risk.
The second rule was to never vaccinate against a disease when you have ‘even the slightest suspicion’ the animal already had it.
This is a very serious situation. We could only hope that this
But in the opinion of Mr. Zellweger, as it was with our scientifically minded colleagues, it is likely to do precisely that.
We are grateful to Mr. Zellweger (an experienced veterinary practitioner) for further explanation of why this idea of Hilary Benn (a career politician) that vaccinating badgers already infected with tuberculosis, will add anything other than carnage to an already bad situation.
On the second 'golden rule' of any vaccination programme, that of jabbing a candidate "who you even the slightest suspician may have the diseae already", Ueli Zellweger makes the following points, specifically about tuberculosis:
If such a diseased animal is vaccinated there is a very high risk to booster or trigger the infection, making things much worse. With bTB, a generalized infection could result: for a minor focus - or tubercle as those are called - even in a so far closed form, could break up, producing a wide spread of bacteries via blood - or lymphstream to all other organs, leading to abscesses and pus and shedding of high amounts of infectious material for the whole miserable rest of its [ the badger's] life. TB is almost always a chronic disease with an “extremly slow death” ~ sometimes after years only suffering from low fever every now and then and getting weaker and weaker.
Mr. Zellweger points out that Defra plan to start their vaccination of badgers with injectible BCG in pilot areas in 2010, in six some 40 square miles big test areas where bTB is known to be already most endemic. And in spite of
technology being avaialable, he notes;
It is not planned to test badger setts before vaccination.
And by 2014, when in theory at least, this
bright idea will be rolled out, the numbers of tested, slaughtered cattle sentinels will be approaching 75,000 annually in GB.
Spillover into other mammalian species is an unknown, but it is gathering pace.