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Avian Flu

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his answer of 8 June 2006, Official Report, column 1341W, on avian influenza, when and in what manner the discussion took place between a departmental official with Mr. Steve Moon at which an offer was extended to Mr. Moon, or another representative of the Association of Local Government Ecologists, to participate in the avian influenza stakeholder group; and who the official was. (81142)

There appears to have been some misunderstanding over this matter. A Defra official has written to Mr. Moon to express regret for this. I have also written to the Secretary of the Association of Local Government Ecologists inviting the association to participate in the AI Stakeholder Group.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his policy is on the vaccination of domestic birds against avian influenza; and if he will make a statement. (85232)

The advice from the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) is that we should not vaccinate poultry in advance of an avian influenza outbreak, or as an immediate disease control response. Although currently available vaccines are able to reduce mortality, it is possible that some vaccinated birds would still be capable of transmitting the disease if they become infected, but might not display symptoms of disease. This would increase the time taken to detect and eradicate the virus. High standards of surveillance and biosecurity, early reporting of suspect cases and culling remain the most effective ways of preventing avian influenza and tackling an outbreak.

However, as I informed the House on 11 July, in order to be fully prepared we have invited tenders to supply us with a further 10 million doses of avian influenza vaccine for potential use in poultry and other captive birds. This is not a change in policy. The CVO has recommended this step as part of sensible contingency planning in the light of uncertainties about the future spread and nature of the virus, and the possibility of as yet unforeseen circumstances. The vaccine would only be used if a risk assessment and scientific evidence indicated it would help to prevent disease spread.