Public Health England (PHE) is continuing to advise the Government not to order the ‘Badger BCG’ vaccine, despite indications the global BCG vaccine shortage is easing.
A recent statement by global children’s charity UNICEF suggested more vaccine supplies were becoming available, leading some farmers and wildlife groups to question why badger vaccination had been suspended in 2016.
The UNICEF statement said: "The increase in total 2016 supply availability from existing manufacturers, together with supply from a new WHO prequalified vaccine, indicates total supply is sufficient to meet both suppressed 2015 demand carried over to 2016, as well as total forecast demand through 2016-2018."
Defra and the Welsh Government both announced they would not be continuing with badger vaccination this year, after the World Health Organisation called on all countries to review their BCG usage due to a global shortage.
English and Welsh Ministers said they had been advised human health must take priority when sourcing BCG vaccines, particularly as one BadgerBCG vaccine equates to 10 human adult doses or 20 human infant doses.
The UNICEF statement has led to this stance being questioned.
One farmer who wants to continue vaccinating in the Edge Area said the UNICEF report gave ’strong indications that the BCG supply position has been rectified’.
The farmer, who asked not to be named, said: "If the supply is now OK, is it not possible for DEFRA to put a late order in?"
With a cull highly unlikely in the Edge Area, vaccination is the ’only option to help protect my cattle while grazing’, he said.
However, PHE has not yet changed its advice to Defra on BCG vaccine prioritisation as supply problems continue to impact on BCG vaccine supply for humans and badgers in the UK.
It is understood the UNICEF report does not reflect the situation in all countries, including the UK.
‘BadgerBCG’ produced by SSI in Denmark, with a limited marketing authorisation, is the only available TB vaccine. Last year, SSI said it would not be producing Badger BCG until further notice.
The Welsh Government indicated earlier this month badger vaccination in Wales’ Intensive Action Area was likely to resume in 2017.
A total of £7 million has been awarded to nine bovine TB research projects, including funding to accelerate vaccine research.
The funding, intended to aid development of the ‘next generation’ of control strategies, will also look at the interactions between bTB and its hosts.
It will deploy ‘non-animal approaches’ such as in vitro and computer models, helping to avoid the use of laboratory animals.
The funded is provided by Defra, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research.
BBSRC chief executive Professor Jackie Hunter said: “The basic bioscience funded through this integrated research programme will play a crucial role in the development of next generation control and eradication strategies for bovine TB."