EU agriculture ministers agreed to implement a bird flu vaccine strategy as the bloc struggles with the most violent outbreak in its history.
To contain the virus, which mainly affects poultry and wild birds, animals have been either culled or kept within infected farms and farms close to the outbreaks.
The outbreak is currently affecting 36 European countries, with France having culled 16 million poultry since December and Italy 18 million since January.’
These measures, while essential, are extremely costly for the industry and public authorities, EU ministers concurred. Mass culling is also “less and less accepted by the general public,” Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas added.
Because of its rapid spread, avian influenza now represents a risk to public health, as “all avian influenza viruses are potentially zoonotic for humans,” the Council’s conclusions read. A few cases have been detected in humans, although it should be noted that these instances are rare.
For these reasons, and because of the cross-border nature of this highly contagious virus, the French EU Council presidency and the EU ministers agreed to develop vaccination as a complementary prevention tool on Tuesday (24 May) in Brussels.
“I am delighted with the unanimity reached on the idea of completing our arsenal for combating this epizootic, by considering the use of vaccination in addition to the necessary biosecurity measures that we already know,” newly appointed French Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Minister Marc Fesneau explained at the end of the Council.
Two vaccines will soon be tested in France in response to the worst avian influenza outbreak Europe has ever faced, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has announced. The aim is for them to be approved by all 27 EU member states.
EU ministers also called for caution when it comes to restrictions on the poultry trade. Countries like the UK, the US, and Saudi Arabia, for example, are currently refusing to buy from countries practising vaccination for fear of importing the virus into their territory.