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USDA makes initial FMD vaccine purchase

APHIS will invest $27.1 million for foot and mouth disease vaccine, and new U.S.-only vaccine bank will hold many more vaccine doses than currently available.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the initial purchase of vaccine for the National Animal Vaccine & Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB).

APHIS will invest $27.1 million in foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine, which the agency would use in the event of an outbreak to protect animals and help stop the spread of disease, the announcement said.

“While we are confident we can keep foot and mouth disease out of the country, as we have since 1929, having access to vaccine is an important insurance policy,” USDA marketing and regulatory programs under secretary Greg Ibach said. “Vaccines could be an important tool in the event of an incursion of the disease in the U.S., but their use will depend on the circumstances of the incursion and require careful coordination with the affected animal industries.”

APHIS noted that vaccination helps control the spread of infection by reducing the amount of virus shed by animals and by controlling clinical signs of illness. While an outbreak of FMD would temporarily disrupt international markets, vaccination would allow animals to move through domestic production channels. FMD is not a threat to public health or food safety.  It is also not related to hand, foot and mouth disease, which is a common childhood illness caused by a different virus.

APHIS explained that NAVVCB is one component of a three-part program established by the 2018 farm bill to comprehensively support animal disease prevention and management. The new U.S.-only vaccine bank — a concept APHIS officials have long discussed with stakeholders and industry — makes a much larger number of vaccine doses available than is currently available through the North American Foot & Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank, the agency said.

APHIS said it will continue to participate in the North American vaccine bank, and this new program adds to the nation’s level of protection against FMD. In the event of an outbreak, animal health officials would decide when, where and how to use the available vaccine, based on the circumstances of the outbreak.

In response, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) applauded the purchase, saying the establishment of a robust FMD vaccine bank "came closer to reality today."

Currently, USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine doses should an outbreak occur, NPPC said. FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep; it is not a food safety or human health threat. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world and would have a widespread, long-term fallout for livestock and crop agriculture, including the immediate loss of export markets.

“Today’s announcement is momentous, representing years of NPPC advocacy to ensure U.S. agriculture is protected, should we have an FMD outbreak,” said NPPC president Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis. “While U.S. pork producers and other farmers face significant challenges and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a solution to FMD preparedness is in our grasp. We thank USDA and especially undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs Greg Ibach for proceeding with such an important effort and look forward to continuing to work with the agency to ensure the FMD vaccine bank is adequately stocked.”

NPPC pointed out that the 2018 farm bill provided $150 million in mandatory funding over the next five years for the FMD vaccine bank, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) also applauded the purchase.

"We are pleased to see USDA is moving forward with creating a supply of FMD vaccines in the NAVVCB to ensure ranchers and farmers have timely access to a critical tool in the fight against foreign animal diseases, such as FMD. This is a promising first step forward to begin the work authorized in the 2018 farm bill, but more action is needed to strengthen this newly created vaccine bank," said NCBA executive director of government affairs Allison Rivera. "NCBA will continue to work with USDA, Congress and other stakeholders to secure future funding, making certain that the entire cattle industry is better prepared for a possible outbreak of FMD.”

As part of the transaction, USDA has awarded Boehringer Ingelheim a contract to help supply the FMD vaccine bank.

According to an announcement from Boehringer Ingelheim, the contract calls for the company to create and maintain a strategic reserve of frozen vaccine antigen concentrate that could quickly be formulated into a vaccine for FMD in the event of an outbreak in the U.S.

“Boehringer Ingelheim has proudly supported the U.S. livestock industry for decades as a leader in animal vaccine technology,” said Everett Hoekstra, President of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. “Infectious animal diseases can disrupt our food supply, and governments make significant investments to help prevent and prepare for such events.”

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