APHIS moves up deadline on AI vaccine proposal comments

Move based on urgency of highly pathogenic outbreak

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has moved up the deadline for submitting written comments on the proposal of a vaccination program to combat avian influenza (AI) because of the urgency of the outbreak.

The deadline, originally set for May 22, is now May 15. The proposal calls for a vaccination program in commercial poultry in five states to combat the outbreak of highly pathogenic AI, according to a USA Poultry & Egg Export Council publication. Comments can be submitted to [email protected]

The five states included in the proposal, and the hardest hit by AI, are MinnesotaIowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Other states will be added to the list as needed.

APHIS said it has confirmed AI cases in 18 states, and more than 15 million commercial turkeys and egg layers have been culled, the USAPEEC newsletter said.

Weighing options on vaccination

APHIS said it is weighing its options on vaccination because traditional control measures have been ineffective in controlling the spread of the virus. Chicken, turkey and egg industry representatives are concerned about the implications for international trade for poultry meat, eggs and genetics.

USAPEEC President Jim Sumner said the council has not yet taken a formal stand on vaccination.

Sumner also said trade restrictions on U.S. poultry by 40 countries have cost the industry approximately $600 million this year.

“It’s impossible to know the additional trade ramifications that would result from vaccination until it’s too late,” he said. “Once vaccination has begun, it cannot be reversed.” He said many countries will use a vaccination program as a reason to restrict trade.

Also, the U.S. policy of prohibiting poultry imports from countries that vaccinate their flocks could cause problems, because the policy could be turned around on the U.S. if it begins a vaccination program.

Sumner suggested that APHIS and officials in the Top 10 international markets discuss the U.S.’s plan and other countries’ reaction and effect on trade.

While no vaccine can provide complete protection against viruses, there are several vaccines that can provide a degree of protection. Researchers are working to develop a vaccine for the H5N2 strain that is affecting commercial flocks in the Upper Midwest.