May 22, 2023


WOAH urges governments to vaccinate birds against bird flu



The World Animal Health Organisation (WOAH) has called on governments to seriously consider the vaccination of birds against bird flu to prevent the virus from evolving into a new pandemic, The Irish Examiner reported.


The global outbreak of avian influenza, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of millions of birds and infected mammals worldwide, has led to a re-evaluation of poultry vaccination as a proactive measure. Some countries, including the US, remain hesitant due to concerns over trade restrictions.


Monique Eloit, Director General of WOAH, said there should be discussions on bird flu vaccination, citing the recent experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Eloit stressed the importance of vaccination alongside existing measures such as systematic culling, which remains the primary tool for disease control.


The issue of vaccination was a focal point during the WOAH's five-day general session, which concentrated on global efforts to combat highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). A survey conducted by the WOAH revealed that only 25% of member states would accept imports of poultry products from birds vaccinated against HPAI.


In contrast, the European Union's 27 member states agreed last year to implement a bird flu vaccine strategy, with France leading the way by initiating vaccination for ducks in the upcoming autumn season.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that it continues to explore vaccine options to combat HPAI. While acknowledging the potential benefits of vaccination, the USDA considers biosecurity measures to be the most effective means of mitigating the virus's impact on commercial poultry flocks.


Eloit said that vaccination efforts should primarily focus on free-range poultry, particularly ducks, as bird flu is commonly transmitted by infected migrating wild birds. Vaccinating broilers, which constitute approximately 60% of global poultry output, may be less effective in combating the disease, she said.


-      The Irish Examiner

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