Bird flu alert drives world towards once-shunned vaccine

  • Severe bird flu kills millions of birds worldwide
  • EU to allow bird flu vaccination
  • Mexico, Ecuador recently launched vaccination campaigns
  • US government reluctant due to concerns over trade barriers

CASTELNAUT-TOURSAN, France (Reuters) – French duck farmer Hervé Dupuis has culled four flocks of ducks since 2015 to stem the spread of bird flu. Embracing a once taboo solution: vaccination.

“Our goal is that our animals don’t get sick and don’t spread the virus,” said Dupuis at his farm in Castelnou-Toursan, southwestern France. It’s not about collecting

Like Dupuis, more and more governments around the world are rethinking their opposition to vaccines. That’s because killing the birds or keeping them indoors didn’t prevent the return of bird flu from depleting commercial flocks year after year.

Reuters spoke to officials from the world’s largest poultry and egg producers, vaccine makers and poultry companies. They all said that due to the severity of this year’s bird flu epidemic, there has been a global shift in approach to vaccines.

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In addition to the cost of slaughtering millions of chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese, scientists and governments are concerned that viruses Specificthe chances of it mutating and spreading to humans only increase.

“That’s why every country in the world is worried about bird flu,” said French Agriculture Minister Marc Fenault.

“There is no reason to panic, but we must learn from history about these issues. This is why we are considering vaccination at a global level,” he told Reuters.

Most of the world’s largest poultry producers have decided not to export vaccinated poultry to countries that have banned vaccinated poultry because vaccination masks the spread of avian influenza and infected birds could slip through the net. It resists vaccination because it can hit.

But since early last year, bird flu, or bird flu, has ravaged farms around the world, killing more than 200 million birds due to disease and slaughter, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) told Reuters. rice field.

Last year’s massive culling also sent egg prices skyrocketing, contributing to the global food crisis.

US holds up

Mexico started emergency vaccination last year, Ecuador He said he plans to vaccinate more than 2 million birds after the virus hits them this month. 9 year old girl.

France plans to begin vaccination of poultry in September, Agriculture Minister Fesneau told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the EU agreed last year to implement a vaccine strategy in its 27 member states.

Brussels has also normalized poultry vaccination rules, which will come into force next month. A spokesperson for the European Commission told Reuters it would ensure that poultry products and day-old chicks could be traded freely within the block.

China, which consumes most of its poultry production domestically, has been immunizing against avian influenza for nearly 20 years, successfully reducing outbreaks significantly.

But the United States, the world’s largest poultry meat producer, is holding out so far.

The United States is the hardest hit globally by the latest outbreak, with more than 58 million birds killed in the past year, according to WOAH data, followed by Canada and France the worst-hit within the EU. received.

But fears of trade restrictions still take center stage for countries reluctant to vaccinate poultry against avian influenza.

Vaccines can reduce mortality, but some vaccinated birds still contract and transmit the disease, effectively masking the spread of the virus.

That’s why some big buyers of poultry and live poultry have banned imports from countries where vaccines are allowed, for fear of carrying the virus.

Avian influenza can also mutate rapidly, making vaccines less effective, but immunizations often have to be administered individually, making programs costly and time-consuming. The flock should be monitored even after inoculation.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Reuters, “Current use of the vaccine will adversely affect the poultry trade and will require response actions such as quarantines, population reductions and surveillance tests.” .

Philippe Gelin, chief executive of LDCs in France, said bilateral negotiations would be necessary to allow exports to these markets and avoid unfair competition, given the trade restrictions on vaccinated poultry. said it would be necessary. (LOUP.PA)one of Europe’s largest poultry companies.

Paris is in talks with non-EU trading partners to allow the export of vaccinated poultry, as well as bilateral talks at EU level with countries outside the bloc, French minister Fesnot told Reuters. said it was being done.

mRNA poultry vaccine

Brazil, the world’s largest poultry exporter, has so far avoided the outbreak and has avoided the need for a vaccine, but several neighboring countries, including Bolivia, have reported outbreaks. So the virus is close.

But countries such as France, which spent €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) last year to compensate poultry farmers for losses, think it’s time to bite the vaccination bullet.

“This is a huge economic loss,” said Gilles Salvatte, deputy head of research at the French health security agency ANSES. “While we cannot avoid occasional introductions (of the virus) through wildlife or contaminated environments, what we would like to avoid is the spread of these occasional introductions across the country.”

As part of an EU-wide strategy, France is testing a duck vaccine. Ducks are highly receptive to the virus and can remain asymptomatic for days, increasing the risk of transmission to other farms.

The Netherlands is testing the vaccine in egg-laying hens, Italy is doing the same in turkeys, Hungary is doing the same in Pekin ducks, and EU trial results are expected in the next few months.

France’s Ceva Animal Health, one of the major companies developing an avian flu vaccine with Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim, said that the initial results were “very high,” especially by significantly reducing shedding of the virus by infected birds. “Promising,” he said.

Ceva said it is using the mRNA technology used in some COVID shots for the first time in a poultry vaccine.

The global market for avian flu vaccines is about 800 million to 1 billion doses per year, excluding China, said Sylvain Comte, corporate marketing director for Ceva’s poultry division.

Although the risk to humans from avian influenza remains low and there have been no cases of human-to-human transmission, countries should prepare for the changing situation. said last week.

The recent COVID crisis shows the risk that viruses found in animals mutate or combine with another influenza virus to infect humans, leading to a global pandemic.

The H5N1 strain prevalent in recent bird flu outbreaks has killed several mammals, including minks in Spain, foxes and otters in the UK, cats in France and grizzly bears in the US.

“We need to be careful not to spread the virus too intensely and for too long, without disturbing people,” said Salva of the French agency ANSES.

($1 = 0.9351 Euro)

Sybille de La Hamaide and Stephane Mahe, France; Cassandra Garrison, Mexico; Tom Polansek, Chicago; Ana Mano, São Paulo; Phil Blenkisop, Brussels; Michael Hogan, Hamburg; Nigel Hunt, London; Sarah El Safty, Cairo; of Patton.Editing by David Clark

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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