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26-06-2008 - Ongoing equine influenza vaccination not the answer

Ongoing equine influenza vaccination not the answer

Monday 23rd June 2008

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) urges the government to ignore calls from thoroughbred and racing organisations for the continuation of the equine influenza vaccination program.

“Only an effective quarantine program will prevent another outbreak. Ongoing vaccinations won’t help,” said Dr James Gilkerson, President of Equine Veterinarians Australia, a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association.

Dr Gilkerson is an equine virologist at The University of Melbourne’s equine infectious disease laboratory who provided extensive expert testimony to the Callinan Inquiry into the outbreak.

“Ongoing vaccination won’t prevent another outbreak – the horses who brought the disease with them last year were all vaccinated. Vaccinated horses can still get equine influenza and spread it to unvaccinated horses.

“Also, if there’s another outbreak, there’s no guarantee that the vaccination being used will work if there’s a new strain of the virus. Flu viruses mutate regularly, and imported horses could easily bring in a new strain. We would be vaccinating with yesterday’s vaccine against tomorrow’s virus. Effective quarantine is the only way of preventing another costly outbreak,” said Dr Gilkerson.

Experiences in other countries back up the AVA’s position against ongoing vaccination of Australia’s horses.

• Japan had a policy of vaccinating racehorses and it was several weeks before they noticed that an outbreak had started because vaccination masks the symptoms. By the time it became apparent, the outbreak had spread throughout the country.

• South Africa had emergency access to vaccine when it was affected by equine influenza for the second time, so they were able to control their outbreak quickly.

• In countries where equine influenza is endemic such as the UK, vaccinated horses still get infected, whole stables are prevented from competing in major events, and race meetings can only continue during large outbreaks by careful screening to identify infected horses.

“Instead of ongoing vaccination, Australia needs to maintain emergency registration of a range of vaccines for use in case there’s another outbreak.

“And most important of all, the quarantine system needs to work effectively. Prevention is better than cure,” said Dr Gilkerson.

Download: AVA2008-079 Ongoing equine influenza vaccination not the answer.pdf

Contact: Marcia Balzer, National Communications Manager Ph: 02 9431 5060, 0439 628 898
Contact E-mail: communications@ava.com.au


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