UK first to gain SBV vaccine

Farmers in the UK will be the first to access a vaccine to help protect sheep and cattle against birth defects caused by the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV).

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has issued a licence to the pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health, allowing it to provide its new ‘Bovilis SBV’ vaccine, which could be in use by this summer.

Chief executive officer of VMD Pete Borriello said the vaccine was the culmination of “intensive activity” on both VMD and MSD Animal Health’s part, in a bid to create a vaccine to tackle SBV. “Without in any way compromising the scientific rigour of our assessment process, we accelerated our assessment so that a vaccine will be available this summer,” he said.  

The timing of the vaccine could mean that sheep and cattle will be vaccinated before they become pregnant, which is important “as it is during pregnancy when exposure to the virus can cause damage to the foetus”, he said.

It was also highlighted that 1,753 farms throughout Britain have tested positive for SBV, information on which was gained through voluntary reports.
Meanwhile, deputy chief veterinary officer for the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Alick Simmons said: “It is welcome news for British farmers to have the choice to vaccinate their animals. The vaccine will give extra assurance against this disease on top of the natural immunity we expect sheep and cattle to develop after initial exposure.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the announcement, and President Peter Jones stressed the importance of the "serious worry" and "significant losses" the virus has caused.

"Although we are aware that previous exposure to the virus provides some immunity there remains a lot of uncertainty about how long the immunity will last and which animals in the herd or flock have been exposed," he added.