In July 2023, just days after we reported on a concerning lack of EAE vaccines in the UK, the National Sheep Association stated that there is a “critical need” to address “ongoing issues” with “disruption to animal vaccine supply”. The statement suggests that the organisation has, for two years, been raising “serious concerns” about these disruptions, calling on manufacturers, the Veterinary Medicines Directive (VMD), and the UK Government for “action to secure reliable vaccine supplies”.
Vaccine benefits vs vaccine availability
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker emphasised that “improved health leads to reduction in waste, productivity gains, and lower carbon footprints, as well as more responsible use of antibiotics”.
“However, as vaccine availability has become a serious issue it is negatively impacting the health and welfare of animals, at the time when we need vaccines most.”
NSA indicates that over a period of three years, vital animal vaccines for sheep and cows have become “scarce”. For example, during 2021 63% of the national sheep flock was vaccinated against clostridial diseases and 51% against Pasteurellosis.
“Not only are sheep farmers across the country now struggling to get these vaccines but now vaccines protecting against diseases such as toxoplasmosis, enzootic abortion, foot rot, and orf are also in short supply.”
These vaccines protect against the “catastrophic consequences” of these diseases, for the animals and the farmers.
Health and welfare
Mr Stocker and his organisation are “especially concerned” that the reduced availability of these vaccines will be “detrimental to animal health and welfare”. It could result in “prolonged suffering for animals” or requiring antibiotic use “at a time when farmers have been doing their very best to minimise the use of these valuable treatments”.
“NSA is worried that after all the efforts made to encourage vaccine use, many farmers will have no choice but to stop vaccinating and if they see few immediate problems getting them to start again will be difficult.”
Demanding government action
The NSA calls for “strategic government level action” to encourage reliable and secure vaccine supplies. It reports that it has written to the VMD, APHA, vaccine manufacturers and distributors, and Defra, asking for collaboration with the farming and veterinary industry to secure a “much more resilient vaccine production and distribution chain” for the UK.
“There is little point in encouraging vaccine uptake if farmers can’t access the products.”
Mr Stocker implied that the collective attitude seems to attribute the disruptions to Brexit, a highly sensitive subject for many in the country.
“As an independent nation we now need some strategic forward thinking and planning to overcome these problems and avoid them happening again.”
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