TB badger vaccination to begin in 2010

A project to vaccinate badgers against tuberculosis (TB) will commence next year in a bid to hinder the spread of the disease, which is devastating cattle herds in the UK.

The project is part of Defra's TB vaccination research programme, which consists of a portfolio of projects looking at vaccine development for both cattle and badgers, as well as new diagnostic tests and disease epidemiology to support vaccine use.

The vaccine will be used over a period of at least five years in six areas of up to 100km≤ where there is a high incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. It will be the first practical use of a vaccine for TB in badgers outside research trials and the project will focus on developing "practical" approaches for use rather than developing further evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Announcing the project, secretary of state for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Hilary Benn MP, pointed out that developing the vaccine was "only half the challenge", and the real difficulty would lie in deploying it successfully.

"This project will help us do that. As such, it marks real progress in our fight against this terrible disease," he said. "The project will focus on ease of use in the field, securing local engagement in the vaccination campaign, developing practical knowhow and creation of a skills base."

Benn stressed that the success of the project would rely on government, the farming industry and other stakeholders working together.

Defra will begin signing up participants and training personnel this year, with the vaccination programme scheduled to start in the summer of 2010.