Defra to issue tender for bluetongue vaccine bank

Secretary of state for the Environment Hilary Benn has announced that Defra is to issue a tender for a bluetongue vaccine bank.

Defra will tender for between 10 and 20 million doses, subject to an assessment of the anticipated demand. Discussions on this are currently underway with the industry.

No suitable vaccine is currently available for the strain of bluetongue circulating in England (serotype 8). However several companies have vaccines in development and these are expected to be available from next summer.

In keeping with the principles set out in the Bluetongue Control Strategy, which was developed in partnership with the farming industry, livestock keepers will be offered the opportunity to purchase vaccine from the bank.

Benn said: "Whilst we are at the early stages of this outbreak, it is sensible for us to plan ahead and tender for a vaccine bank given the potential benefits vaccination could provide in managing this disease should it re-appear next year."

"We hope this tendering process will reassure the farming industry that we are committed to having a vaccine supply ready as soon as vaccine becomes available. We will have a vaccine bank that farmers will be able to purchase from and I am sure the benefits of vaccination will make real economic sense to many farmers."

The National Farmer's Union has greeted Defra's decision to issue a tender for a bluetongue vaccine bank as a welcome step towards tackling the disease.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "The current bluetongue outbreak is causing huge anxiety among livestock farmers and they will be greatly relieved to see the Government's commitment to secure a vaccine bank. Vaccination will be the key tool in protecting English livestock farmers from the devastating impact bluetongue has had across much of Northern Europe.

"This move is a welcome first step but there are still a lot of practical issues regarding vaccination that need to be addressed urgently."