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FMD vaccine stockpile insufficientFMD vaccine stockpile insufficient

Jacqui Fatka

March 3, 2016

5 Min Read
FMD vaccine stockpile insufficient
FMD vaccine stockpile insufficient

THE U.S. has not had a case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) since 1929, but if it were to hit the U.S., the impact would be devastating, with costs estimated at more than $200 billion to pork, beef, poultry, corn, soybean and wheat producers.

The House Agriculture Committee's subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture held a hearing in February — titled "Foot & Mouth Disease: Are We Prepared?" — to outline the cooperation in place between the industry and the government in preparation for any potential FMD outbreak in the U.S. and to discuss funding needs if such an event should occur.

While FMD rarely infects people and isn't a food safety issue, an outbreak in North America, which currently is FMD free, could negatively affect meat exports and domestic meat sales.

Dr. Howard Hill, former president of the National Pork Producers Council, said after watching countries such as the U.K., South Korea and Japan, whose livestock populations pale in comparison to the U.S., struggle to manage an FMD outbreak by depopulating animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) changed its existing policy on managing the disease from "stamping out" to using vaccines to limit the spread.

"The United States simply cannot kill its way out of an FMD outbreak," Hill testified, adding that the industry supports the vaccine approach as less costly, more humane and more practical, given the U.S. herd size.

Currently, the amount of vaccine available at the North American FMD Vaccine Bank is below what would be required for an outbreak. The funding USDA has and is receiving for the National Veterinary Stockpile is insufficient to provide adequate FMD vaccine stockpiles, which would slow the deployment of a vaccination strategy.

Several funding options are under consideration and were discussed at the hearing, including industry groups helping foot the bill. Possibly using checkoff funds was also mentioned, although by law, checkoff funds may not be used for anything other than research or promotion.

Hill said the industry is not opposed to some kind of partnership to help fund the efforts but would need a plan to know the costs before making any commitments.

Dr. Dave Sjeklocha, veterinarian and operations manager for animal health and welfare at Cattle Empire LLC, testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. that if the beef industry were to put in more money to develop the vaccine pool but the pork industry ended up needing more doses, infighting might ensue between those groups over which would get more vaccine.

Dr. Jim Roth, director of the Center for Food Security & Public Health at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, noted that the size, structure, efficiency and extensive movement of the U.S. livestock industry will present unprecedented challenges in the event of an FMD outbreak.

"It will be nearly impossible to control an FMD outbreak in livestock-dense areas without the rapid use of tens of millions of doses of FMD vaccine," he said.

Roth has estimated that a robust FMD vaccine stockpile could require an investment of up to $150 million per year for five years.

Establishing and maintaining an FMD vaccine bank is complex; there are seven distinct serotypes of the virus that are not cross-protective as well as approximately 65 subtypes. The World Reference Laboratory for FMD recommends that FMD vaccine banks maintain 23 strains of the FMD virus. Roth noted that vaccine capability could initially focus on the most common strains of FMD virus and gradually be increased over those five years.

U.S. law prohibits live FMD virus on the U.S. mainland, so APHIS contracts with foreign vaccine production companies to produce finished vaccine from the antigen stored at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. Only a limited number of FMD strains are covered by that antigen, and under current production contracts, only 2.5 million doses of vaccine could be produced within three weeks of an outbreak.

In his testimony, Hill said improving the FMD vaccine bank will require:

* Contracting with an offshore, vendor-maintained vaccine antigen bank that has antigen concentrate available to protect against all 23 of the most common FMD types currently circulating in the world;

* Maintaining a vendor-managed inventory of 10 million doses of vaccine, which is the estimated amount needed for the first two weeks of an FMD outbreak, and

* Contracting with an international manufacturer(s) for the surge capacity to produce at least 40 million doses.

Sjeklocha testified that vaccinating cattle against FMD has been practiced with relatively positive immunity results. Cattle are considered the highest priority for emergency FMD vaccine use. For example, in Uruguay in 2001, an FMD outbreak was brought under control by rapid vaccination of all cattle in the country.

However, Sjeklocha warned that with an insufficient supply of FMD vaccines in the National Veterinary Stockpile, if an outbreak of FMD occurred in a livestock-concentrated area, such as Iowa, and was not contained rapidly with "stamping out," it could easily exhaust the world's supply of emergency FMD vaccine.

He noted that an FMD outbreak in Korea depleted banks of FMD vaccines from around the world just to vaccinate a cattle population roughly half the size of the livestock population in Iowa.

Pork producers are further ahead in their ability to trace back animals, if needed during a disease outbreak, whereas the cattle industry does not have a strong standard for traceability.

Volume:88 Issue:03

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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