Deputy minister for farming and food Rebecca Evans has announced due to a global shortage of the BCG vaccine, she has suspended sourcing of BCG for badger vaccination in Wales.
The World Health Organization has called on all countries to review their BCG usage to ensure countries with the highest human TB rates receive priority and to target individuals who will benefit most from BCG vaccination.
The Welsh Government put in an order for badger BCG for 2016 through Defra, which procures the vaccine on an England, Wales and Northern Ireland basis.
Due to a backlog in production of the BCG vaccine for use in humans globally, SSI – the only company that has the marketing authorisation to produce badger BCG – has said it will not be producing it until further notice. The badger vaccine is the same formula as the vaccine used in humans.
If the Welsh Government was to continue with the badger vaccination programme next year, it would have to source human BCG for use in the badgers.
Given the global shortage and the fact one badger vaccine equates to 10 human adult doses or 20 human infant doses, the deputy minister has decided to suspend vaccination until the global supply for humans is adequate.
The deputy minister made the announcement as she updated members on the bTB eradication programme, which included an update on the latest figures and new initiatives including full roll-out of Cymorth TB across Wales.
Public health a priority
Ms Evans said: “bTB is a serious animal health issue and we are continuing to build and develop a programme that is robust and flexible, and involves working in partnership towards our goal of a TB-free Wales.
“However, public health must always take priority and until the supply situation is resolved, our badger vaccination projects underway in Wales – which include year five of the intensive action area (IAA) project and parts of the badger vaccination grant scheme – will be suspended.”
Ms Evans explained: “We are four years into a five-year programme within the IAA and two years into private vaccination grants, but this does not mean the hard work of the previous years will have been wasted. We have successfully administered more than 5,500 doses during that time.
“Vaccination is far from the only tool in our armoury in our efforts to eradicate bTB. We have increased focus on epidemiology and are identifying patterns of disease in Wales.
“We have developed a TB dashboard to present TB data clearly, introduced informed purchasing polices and are monitoring the profile of disease in wildlife through our badger found dead survey.
“Currently, 94.4% of herds in Wales are free from disease and we remain committed to continuing our hard work to eradicate bTB from Wales for good.
“I have commissioned modelling work to investigate the potential impact of these changes on the IAA vaccination project and to assess a number of scenarios. We will continue to evaluate the impact of all interventions within the IAA, including vaccination.”
Wales is at the forefront of international efforts to fight bTB and has had an eradication programme in place since 2008, which has received continued support from the European commission for six years running.