When the U.S. finally gets its foot-and-mouth vaccine bank fully established, could pork producers go ahead and vaccinate herds ahead of any potential outbreak? One expert says that is “really not an option.”
According to James Roth, a professor in the department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, if a country declares itself free internationally of FMD, but have vaccinated for it, then as outlined in international animal health rules, there would still be many hoops to jump through to export product.
“Countries that would import your product want to see a lot of data to prove that that virus is not circulating in a low level, so you have to do very extensive diagnostic testing to prove that even though you’re vaccinating, there is no virus infecting the herds,” Roth says.
FMD is an extremely contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, any livestock or wildlife with two toes, including pigs. While it’s been 90 years since the U.S. had an FMD break, the disease is currently present in 96 countries around the world.
For the first time, the 2018 farm bill includes mandatory funding that directly supports animal disease prevention and preparedness, including the creation of a vaccine bank for livestock diseases. The bank, known as the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank will allow the United States to increase its ability to stockpile veterinary countermeasures.
Currently, the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine to avoid devastating economic consequences to the U.S. economy, should an outbreak occur.
Roth says there’s an even more pragmatic argument against pre-vaccinating for FMD when the bank is established; its not logistically or financially practical. “There’s 23 different strains,” Roth says. “We’d have to use 23 different vaccines to cover all possible strains in the world.”