Sunday, December 06, 2015

BCG for badgers, while babies go short,

As the worldwide shortage of BCG vaccine for human beings hits the headlines, we hear that Wales has abandoned its trial of using the drug for badgers. Farmers guardian - [link] has the story of the Welsh Assembly Government's second U turn affecting the cattle farmers in this area.

Their first was to abandon plans for a cull of badgers, in favour of jabbing them.

There was no head count, no pre screening for existing health status and using a drug which had no efficacy data presented. Just trap and jab - as many as you can. And the cost? a staggering £2.8m in the first 3 years, and around 5,500 doses delivered in four years; with no certainty that they were given to the 'right' badger, or one who just put up with a needle in its bum, for the sake of a reward of peanuts.

We say this after hearing of a Devon badger which arrived on a local autopsy table, with numerous puncture wounds in its derriere. It appeared to have been 'vaccinated' numerous times.

Shortages of BCG first hit the headlines in 2012, when The Telegraph - [link] reported the closure of the plant operated by Canadian company, Sanofi Pasteur. This story was updated in 2014 by the Daily Mail - [link] which reported 'thousands of people' were left without the drug, which was now being used for bladder and bowel cancer.
Thousands of bladder cancer patients face an uncertain future because stocks of a drug that prevents the disease progressing are running perilously low.

The crisis means patients may be soon given a stark choice: surgical removal of the entire organ, or risk the cancer returning. Up to 12,000 people are to be left without the crucial medication, called BCG, as British hospitals run out of supplies.
And earlier this summer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a rationing system for supplies of BCG. Their new recommendations are on this WHO paper [link] with their explanation for the rationing:
In 2015, 180 million doses were needed, and only 107 million were available."
That is a 30 per cent shortfall.

Just one badger vaccination offered to a candidate of unknown health status and due to be repeated for at least 5 years - if the badger volunteered for his jab, is 10x the strength of a 'normal' dose for a adult human being and 20x that needed for a baby.

Excellent PR for the farming industry isn't it? Particularly as the drug itself, as predicted, seems to be having no effect on cattle TB in the area whatsoever.

But that was never the intention. What did Defra say in 2011? "Pump-prime farmers to accept the concept of vaccination"? We discussed it in this post - [link] And it gets no more palatable with re-reading it.

Patronising guff. And if Defra want to carry on vaccinating badgers, as one veterinary pathologist wryly commented, they could " use saline: it will have just the same effect".

* Grateful thanks to Ken Wignall for the use of his cartoon, first shown in Farmers Guardian.

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