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Change to FMD vaccine policy vital to protect US pig sector

The US foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccination policy needs a multi-million dollar overhaul to protect the country’s pig sector from the threat of the disease, farm leaders say.

Sector organizations including the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board have warned the pig sector could face losses of billions of dollars if an outbreak occurred under the current disease prevention program, National Hog Farmer reports.

Unless officials revisit legislation around managing vaccinations in the case of a FMD outbreak, the country will remain woefully unequipped to deal with the potential impacts of the disease, they said.

Under the current program the US maintains its own vaccine bank, but the way it operates means that producers would only have limited access to vaccines if an outbreak occurred.

This is because the bank only contains half of the 23 strains of FMD currently circulating in the world, but also because US legislation prevents live FMD virus from being on US mainland.

Therefore, if a virus occurs and the US bank has the antigen for the outbreak strain, it must be shipped to Europe to be turned into a finished vaccine, and then sent back.

According to NPPC president John Weber, the turnaround for this could be weeks for a small event, and months for a large outbreak.

“If there is a disease outbreak in this country, everyone is going to lose their markets,” Weber said. “You will not be able to eat your way out of the sector.”

To address the issues, the NPPC and NPB — together with cattle-industry bodies — have commissioned a study to look at how the country could produce enough vaccine to manage an FMD outbreak.

The study, by Iowa State University professor James Roth, identified three steps to building a responsive plan, including an offshore FMD vaccine bank, and contracts to produce 10 and 40 million vaccines

As all three require legislative action, the NPPC and NPB are working to advance an FMD response strategy that is “realistic and reasonable”. The new program — estimated to cost $150 million for five years — will be introduced in the next farm bill.

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