Vaccination against bluetongue in England and Wales is voluntary. Vaccine was first made available from 30 April 2008, and the Protection Zone was extended step by step as further vaccine consignments were delivered. Initial vaccine uptake was high—reaching between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. in the South East and East of England, but uptake in the counties of northern England and in Wales has been lower.
To date the overall uptake of vaccine across the whole of England is about 60 per cent.
My Department has underwritten vaccine supply to ensure that it is available. Beyond that I have made no plans to reach specific levels of vaccination at specific times. Vaccination is the responsibility of the livestock industry. An industry-led communications campaign has promoted the benefits of vaccinating, and the risks of not doing so.
Vaccination in Scotland will be compulsory. The whole of Scotland will become a Protection Zone from 3 November.
The most recent assessment on “in-utero” infection in calves was done following the discovery of Bluetongue Serotype 8 (BTV8) infected calves in Northern Ireland in February 2007 which were born to recently imported cattle (“Menzies et al 2008, Vet record, 163, 203-209”) and the finding that some English cows infected in 2007 also transmitted the virus to their calves. These findings prompted new legislation to be brought forward at EU level on the export of pregnant cattle and resulted in the UK testing all calves born to imported cattle for evidence of BTV 8 infection. This is still subject to further investigation and research at the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, and elsewhere in mainland Europe.
As yet, there is no evidence in Europe of such “in-utero” transfer of BTV1 virus.