Friday, January 8, 2016

Avian flu vaccine spurned

Chicken producers in the United States are spurning government plans to use vaccines to counter avian influenza.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is stockpiling up to 500 million doses of a new vaccine, but some parts of the $48-billion poultry industry don’t want it while others do.

“As soon as you vaccinate any bird, you are telling the world bird flu is endemic, and countries are going to stop buying from us, some of them for years,” said Ashley Peterson, science and technology vice president for the National Chicken Council.

But the turkey sector wants the vaccine and egg producers have yet to weigh in with their views.

Trade concerns may be exaggerated, said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation in Washington.

Turkey farmers, especially in Minnesota, were hit so hard that there were shortages for some types of turkey, such as heavy-weight toms for the further-processing market.

Millions of egg-laying hens were wiped out, prompting steep price increases, especially for the egg-processing sector.

The U.S. government is preparing to deploy enough staff and other resources to handle about 500 infected flocks, more than double the number seen in 2015.

Agency officials have also traveled to meet their counterparts in countries including China, Japan and South Korea to argue that measures the USDA might take shouldn’t lead to trade bans.

“The world recognizes that the science has changed and that vaccines can be used effectively” to eradicate virus, Brandengerger said.

To avoid conflicts in an outbreak, groups need to work out their approach to a vaccine sooner rather than later, and the government needs to make potential trade impacts as clear as possible, said Les Sims, a consultant with Asia Pacific Veterinary Information Service in Australia.