Parliament moves quickly to approve new rules on Bluetongue vaccinations - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Parliament moves quickly to approve new rules on Bluetongue vaccinations

Thursday, 7 April 2011
The European Parliament has this week moved quickly to back plans to reduce red tape and allow for farmers to voluntarily vaccinate their animals against the bluetongue disease before the summer, when an outbreak is likeliest.

The decision still has to be ratified by the European Council in May, but it paves the way for the UK to move out of the low-risk zone category, qualifying it for disease-free status while retaining permission to vaccinate livestock.

Bluetongue, a non-contagious virus spread by midges, was first discovered in South Africa but since 2006 has been found in Europe the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, northern France and in the UK. In August 2008 two cases of bluetongue were discovered in rams near Lewes in East Sussex and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, and the disease was later also found in eight imported cattle on premises near Tiverton in Devon and a month later in cattle near Yeovil, Somerset. The affected animals in these instances had all been imported into Britain from the Continent, and the outbreaks killed many animals and caused heavy losses to farmers.

Despite no further cases being reported in the UK since then, Britain cannot be given bluetongue-free status under current rules because farmers have used the existing live attenuated vaccines that carry the risk of virus transmission.

Vaccination is currently only allowed in designated zones where there is an outbreak and the animals are subjected to movement restrictions, but under the resolution approved today by MEPs with 587 votes in favour, 1 vote against and 19 abstentions, current restrictions could be lifted and newly-available "inactivated vaccines" with no transmission risk can be used by farmers at anytime.

Speaking in the debate held before the Parliament’s vote, South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling urged common sense to prevail and MEPs allow the existing restrictions be lifted to ensure farmers can vaccinate their livestock before the summer.

For too long, our vaccination strategy has been held back by the fact that we have not developed sophisticated enough products to allow vaccination of animals outside exclusion zones,” she said.

Being in an exclusion zone can be disastrous for a farmer’s livelihood. It can also be disastrous not to protect your animals from disease, especially one as damaging and virulent as bluetongue.


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