No badger TB vaccination programme until at earliest 2018 - Creed
As it stands, there is no new programme for badger vaccination. However, the Department has told the Irish Farmers Journal that it is working on a trial that could replace culling with vaccination against TB.
"The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine invests in extensive research in relation to badger ecology with the intention of developing a badger vaccination programme," the Department said in a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal. "The objective is to replace badger culling with vaccination when this research demonstrates that this is a practicable proposition."
A number of trials have been operating since 2013 that replace culling in already culled areas. A trial in Kilkenny has been completed, the results of which will be published in 2017. In addition trials are being conducted in six separate locations in the country involving vaccination by intramuscular injection of several hundred badgers over three to four years with continuous monitoring of the badger population to assess the impact of the vaccine on the incidence of disease in the cattle population.
The outcome of these field trials will eventually determine whether the vaccination of badgers delivers an outcome equivalent to the current badger removal strategy and these projects are due to conclude in 2018.
"If these trials are successful in demonstrating that vaccination is as effective as continued culling, vaccination will become an increasingly important part of the national eradication strategy, provided that the obstacles relating to the delivery of the vaccine are overcome," the Department said.
Responding to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly this week, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that "no TB vaccine is currently licensed for anything other than humans in Ireland and any new preparation for badgers would have to be licensed under EU medicines legislation."
The Department of Agriculture, UCD and DEFRA are carrying out the research needed to prepare a dossier for submission to the licensing authorities in Ireland and the UK.
"In addition, research is being carried out in Ireland and in the United Kingdom on suitable bait delivery methods for an oral vaccine to ensure that, when such a vaccine is licensed, an effective delivery method is available," Creed said.
"My Department is hopeful that this research will be successful and that a vaccination strategy will be a significant element of the national TB control programme."