Vaccination may be necessary in UK

Tony Blair has hinted that he is seriously considering vaccinating animals to control the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease

Prime Minister Tony Blair has hinted that he is seriously considering vaccinating livestock to control the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom. His comments come after the British army began a mass burial of 500,000 sheep in an effort to tackle the huge backlog of slaughtered livestock awaiting disposal.

The government is reluctant to sanction vaccination out of concerns that it would affect future export markets since the UK would lose its status as a "disease free" zone. In addition, it would be very difficult to distinguish which animals were sick or vaccinated; costs would be enormous; and protection would only last six to nine months.

The government still hopes to fight against foot-and-mouth disease by slaughtering and destroying infected and suspected and susceptible animals as well as the strict control of the movement of animals.

Until recently, opinions against vaccination in Europe have held firm. However, on 23 March, chief European Union vets have overturned a 15-year-old policy by allowing limited emergency vaccination to control the disease (see

EURACTIV 26 March).

For the moment, only France have opted not to use the new EU provision for "suppressive vaccination". The Netherlands has already vaccinated and marketed 2000 animals. The European Commission will meet on 27 March to discuss the possibility of vaccinating zoo animals.

27 new cases of foot-and-mouth disease were reported Monday (26 March) in the UK, bringing the tally so far to 634.

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