(2) what vaccines are available to prevent the spread of each of the 24 bluetongue serotypes; and if he will make a statement;
(3) on what date he expects Merial to be able to resume working on a bluetongue vaccine at the Pirbright site; and if he will make a statement;
(4) what his estimate is of the likely cost to livestock farmers of purchasing a bluetongue vaccine; and if he will make a statement.
No suitable, inactivated vaccines are currently available for bluetongue serotype 8 (BTV-8), the strain of bluetongue currently in circulation in the east and south-east of England.
However, we are aware of at least three vaccine companies which have a BTV-8 vaccine in development. Production at one of those companies, Merial at Pirbright, was temporarily halted after tests revealed a possible link between the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak and Pirbright, and the use of live virus at Merial was suspended. Following detailed inspections at the site, we are now satisfied that they have in place all the necessary measures to ensure strict biosecurity throughout the site. On 6 November, we permitted Merial to begin using FMD and bluetongue viruses for vaccine production at the site. However, this has not prevented Merial from continuing development of vaccine as their Pirbright site is primarily a production, rather than research, facility; Merial conduct the majority of their research elsewhere.
On 1 November, my Department issued a tender to all three companies to supply between 10 and 20 million doses of vaccine. This tender closed on 15 November and an order will be placed as soon as possible, once we have fully assessed the bids submitted. This should ensure that a vaccine will be available for use by next summer.
In keeping with the principles set out in the Bluetongue Control Strategy, which was developed in partnership with the farming industry, livestock keepers will be offered the opportunity to purchase vaccine from the bank. Once a decision on the order has been made, we will provide an estimate of the cost of the vaccine and other associated costs to livestock keepers.
The BTV-8 vaccine we have tendered for will not offer any cross-protection against the other 23 bluetongue serotypes. Currently, there are suitable, inactivated vaccines available for bluetongue serotypes 1, 2 and 4. Live attenuated vaccines are available for other serotypes but there are significant potential risks associated with their use; so they would therefore not normally be considered as an initial control measure, in line with our policy of disease containment.
We are developing a detailed plan with bluetongue scientific experts, representatives of the farming industry and others as to how a vaccination programme would work. Discussions are also taking place with the European Commission and other member states about possible approaches to vaccination.
[holding answer 20 November 2007]: On 1 November DEFRA issued a tender for between 10 and 20 million doses of bluetongue vaccine. The tender closed on 15 November and we are treating the assessment of bids as a high priority. Our aim is to ensure that a firm order is placed as soon as possible, and a vaccine is available by next summer.
We are considering detailed bluetongue vaccination plans with representatives from the farming industry and scientific experts, so that we are fully prepared for when the vaccine is delivered. The issues that are being discussed include: whether to adopt a voluntary or compulsory approach; and whether there should be a phased approach to vaccination taking account of disease control priorities, such as certain high-risk areas or species.
Although there are no suitable, inactivated vaccines currently available for bluetongue serotype 8 (BTV-8), we are aware of at least three vaccine companies who have a BTV-8 vaccine in an advanced state of development. On 1 November, DEFRA issued a tender to all of those companies to supply between 10 and 20 million doses for a vaccine bank. This tender closed on 15 November and an order will be placed as soon as possible, once the bids have been fully assessed. This should ensure that a vaccine will be available for use by next summer.
We are also developing a detailed plan with bluetongue scientific experts, representatives of the farming industry and others as to how a vaccination programme would work. Discussions are taking place with the European Commission and other member states about possible approaches to vaccination.