Bluetongue vaccines now available in Britain
Published:  19 July, 2016

Vaccines for bluetongue are now available for sheep and cattle across Britain, with supplies approved for use in vet practices.

According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), there is a high risk of an outbreak of bluetongue towards the end of the summer. This is because of infected midges being blown across the English Channel from France where the disease is present. The disease can affect all ruminants, but sheep and cattle are particularly vulnerable.

“It’s fantastic news that the vaccine is now available,” said government deputy chief veterinary officer Simon Hall. “This is the perfect time to talk to your vet, as the vaccine is the only effective tool to prevent illness.

“I am urging our livestock farmers to keep an eye out for any signs of the disease and report any suspicions to their vet and the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately, so we can work together to reduce the possible spread of bluetongue this summer.”

According to Defra, vaccination is the best way to protect Britain’s livestock from the illness, with farmers being encouraged to talk to their vets to determine whether or not the vaccine could help their businesses.

The vaccination has to be given twice, three weeks apart, in cattle and in sheep. This means it can take up to six weeks for the animal to be fully immune. Two companies, Zoetis and MSD, have revealed they are making a vaccine available in the UK.

While Zoetis’s Zulvac 8 Bovis and Ovis vaccines are available now, MSD Animal Health is set to deliver its Bluevac BTV8 – a single vaccine for both sheep and cattle – in the coming days. Both companies are confident there is enough vaccine to meet demand.

“We welcome the announcement that vaccine will be available in time to meet potential demand,” said president of the British Veterinary Association, Sean Wensley.

“This disease serioulsy affects animal health and welfare as well as the productivity of livestock, and vaccination is the key control. We recommend farmers speak to their local vet about the benefits of vaccinations. Taking into account their locality and individial circumstances. Farmers should not hesitate to seek advice if they have any concerns about their livestock.”

Defra said that the government had robust disease surveillance procedures in place and was working alongside the Devolved Administrations and livestock industry. Restriction zones are already in place in France to control the spread of the disease. Similar movement restrictions would be put in place in Britain if the disease were found.

Farmers and vets who suspect the disease must immediately report to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200301.

Bluetongue does not impact human health and does not affect meat, milk or other animal products.