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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Scientists call for vaccination strategy
Pyre, PA
Mass culling is essential, says the report
Vaccination should be part of any strategy to control a future foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK, a government-commissioned report recommended on Tuesday.


If an outbreak does occur, it must not be allowed to develop into an epidemic

Sir Brian Follett, inquiry chair
A Royal Society inquiry said animals on an infected farm should still be culled but suggested healthy livestock on neighbouring premises should be vaccinated as a "major tool of first resort" to prevent the disease spreading further.

The report, from Britain's foremost academy of science, is the first of two major studies into the government's handling of the epidemic last year.

The crisis resulted in the deaths of about seven million animals, and the destruction of thousands of farmers' livelihoods. It also cost the nation about 8bn.

Emergency only

The Royal Society report said the mass cull and severe clampdown on livestock movement implemented by government officials was essential to contain the highly infectious disease - but these measures were not enough on their own, it said.

Virus, Oxford University
Better vaccines are needed
Image by Oxford University

"The rapid culling of infected premises and known dangerous contacts, combined with movement control and rapid diagnosis will remain essential to controlling foot-and-mouth disease and most other highly infectious diseases," the report said.

"In many cases this will not be sufficient to guarantee that the outbreak does not develop into an epidemic."

At the time of the crisis, there was a huge debate over whether vaccination should be used.

Animal welfare groups appalled by the scale of slaughter demanded its introduction; farmers concerned about the effectiveness of the vaccines insisted the killings must continue.

They were also worried that vaccination would lead to lengthy bans on meat and livestock exports.

Minimise risk

The report stressed that routine vaccination should not take place in the UK, as long as the risk of disease entering the country remained low and provided proper procedures to handle a future outbreak were put in place.

The Royal Society urged international research groups to investigate "a vaccine that conferred sterile lifelong immunity against all foot-and-mouth strains", which would globally reduce the threat from the disease.

Currently, individual vaccines are only effective against a limited range of disease strains and animals have to receive regular boosters to maintain their immunity.

Sir Brian Follett, who chaired the inquiry, said: "Globalisation has caused an increased risk of infectious animal diseases entering the UK.

"The overall objective of the national policy must be to minimise the risk of a disease entering the country and reaching the farm.

"If an outbreak does occur, it must not be allowed to develop into an epidemic, as has happened a number of times in the last century."

Better controls

The report also called for:

  • contingency arrangements, in broad terms, to be approved by Parliament;

  • emergency procedures to be rehearsed every year;

  • all contingencies to be given a formal three-yearly review, to make sure they take account of the latest scientific knowledge.

    The Royal Society recommended Britain liaise with its European partners to ensure the necessary emergency vaccination procedures can be used by the end of next year.

    It also wants better early warning systems across Europe to help identify potential outbreaks, and tighter import controls on meat products.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
    "The report acknowledges that if vaccination is to work more research is needed to develop a safe and effective treatment"
    Chairman of the Royal Society, Sir Brian Follett
    "We have to change import controls fairly extensively"


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    16 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
    16 Jul 02 | UK
    19 Mar 01 | UK
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