July 14, 2022
Secured access to FMD vaccines in case diseases hits New Zealand, say officials
New Zealand has guaranteed access to vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) if it is detected here, according to biosecurity officials.
Concerns have been growing in Australia and New Zealand's primary industries since it was discovered in Indonesia in May. The disease, which can cause severe lameness and death in cloven-hooved animals including cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, was also recently confirmed in the holiday hotspot of Bali, Indonesia.
Officials fear contaminated soil could be brought back on people's shoes as they entered the country, leading to an outbreak.
Biosecurity New Zealand has launched an awareness campaign about the virus, requiring travellers to declare goods, equipment and food that could carry unwanted pests or diseases and state when they have been in contact with livestock.
There is also a one-week stand down period from the time that a person arrives from a country with the disease, to the time they go on to a farm in New Zealand.
Foot-and-mouth vaccines can protect cattle once the virus is detected on a farm, but are tricky to roll out - the virus has a number of strains and the vaccine needs to match the strain that is circulating to be effective.
Biosecurity NZ deputy director-general Stuart Anderson said if the disease was detected here, vaccines could be ready to roll out within days.
"We have 500,000-odd doses of vaccine covering the nine main strains of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK in a vaccine bank, which is available for our exclusive use, and they can rapidly ramp up manufacturing more if we were to need them," he said.
Anderson said the vaccines could be shipped to New Zealand "within a matter of days" if needed... (and) also within a matter of days, they would be manufacturing further doses for us."
"We also have arrangements with other countries to share vaccines, so that's Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and Ireland," he added. "We are all countries that actively work to keep foot-and-mouth disease out, and so we have an arrangement in place that if any of those countries needed vaccines, we would also support each other by allocating some of our doses to each other."
Anderson said the overall risk to New Zealand from the Indonesian outbreak remained low, but officials were keeping a close eye on it and were working closely with their Australian counterparts.
An outbreak could have a severe impact on New Zealand's economy. Treasury data from 2018 showed an outbreak lasting six months in the North Island alone could result in lost export earnings of $15 billion.
Westpac senior agricultural economist Nathan Penny warned the rural sector would be hard-hit if an outbreak was detected.
"When we think about the provinces that are heavily exposed to agriculture, their economies are less diverse than somewhere like Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, which have a lot more diverse economies, they've got manufacturing, they've got service centres, and the likes of those economies would rebound faster than provincial centres," Penny said.
"But that said, we do have some experience in dealing with these sorts of things, we've got recent experience in dealing with Mycoplasma bovis, we have got some of the best biosecurity systems in the world, and that could mean that there would be the possibility that rural regions could bounce back from this very quickly."
- Otago Daily Times