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First chickens in test phase vaccinated against bird flu virus

Eng First Chickens In Test Phase

The first shot has been given: 1,800 day-old chicks will receive a vaccination against highly pathogenic bird flu. Chickens in the Netherlands have never before been vaccinated against bird flu in a field trial.This means that the field trial, which is taking place on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), has started. This is an important step towards large-scale vaccination of poultry against the bird flu virus.

Minister Piet Adema: “Bird flu is a serious disease that has severely affected the poultry sector, which affects both the animals and the entrepreneurs and of course many wild birds have also died as a result. We are therefore taking action together to reduce the number of infections in kept poultry.”

Field trial

Previous research in the laboratory at Wageningen  Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) has shown that two vector vaccines against highly pathogenic bird flu are effective against the spread of the virus. The ministry is now having Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Royal GD (Animal Health Service) and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University investigate whether these two vaccines are also effective in practice. At the start of the field trial, the chicks are divided into different test groups. At regular intervals, a number of chickens from the field trial are tested in the laboratory, under controlled conditions, to investigate the effectiveness against infection. During the trial, the chickens are intensively monitored and controlled, in line with the new European regulation. This field trial is a scientific study and the products from the vaccinated chickens are not marketed. Chickens are now also vaccinated against various diseases.

Results

The trial on the two companies will last until the third quarter of 2025. The first results are expected in the second quarter of 2024. Under practical conditions, the effectiveness of a vaccine may be different than under controlled conditions in a laboratory. In a poultry house, for example, the housing and the stable climate are different, the animals are vaccinated against more diseases and there are other germs present in the house that could influence the effectiveness of a vaccine. It is important that the vaccines not only provide protection against symptoms of illness, but above all prevent the spread of the bird flu virus.

Vaccination process

The government wants to make vaccination possible in a responsible manner, with a view to animal and public health and animal welfare. That is why a step-by-step approach has been chosen. In addition to the field trial, a pilot will also be carried out to vaccinate a larger number of poultry farms in the Netherlands. The pilot is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2024 at several poultry farms. The condition is that the vaccine has European approval and the results of the first laboratory test are known. The pilot will also pay close attention to the effects of vaccination on the trade in poultry products and the setting up of a surveillance program. The aim of this surveillance program is to detect as quickly as possible any contamination on a vaccinated farm, something that could still happen despite vaccination. This minimizes the chance that the virus will continue to circulate.

Alertness

It is still very important that poultry farmers remain alert and that they report suspected bird flu to the NVWA as quickly as possible, as they do now, and continue to apply the mandatory hygiene measures. This is currently the best way to minimize the risk of bird flu infection.

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