Thursday, 25 October 2007

DEFRA's Disastrous Dithering

Merial and Intervet say that, between them, they could meet demand in 2008, provided there is a plan. If there is no coherent plan, they will have to produce vaccine based on 'first come - first served' basis, which is most certainly not the best strategy for the EU. Merial indicates they will not raise vaccine prices in case of shortages

"Don't let people confuse you," we are told by the insider who told us the above, "It is just a matter of political will".

If the EU Commission is short of funds, they should go to the European Parliament and ask for more.(Jan Mulder is a member of the budget committee. He spoke kindly to me in Brussels after the four hour session in the Parliament.)

The key points we have to get the politicians to understand are these:

  • The Commission promised to pay for the vaccines themselves
  • The Commission promised to pay 50% of the vaccination costs during the first year.
  • Our European neighbours are much further up the learning curve. Michel Barnier, the excellent French Minister of Agriculture, has put in an order for 33.4 million doses of vaccine. Germany plans to order 5 million doses and says "eradication of BT can only be achieved by vaccination of all susceptible farmed ruminants..."

    Holland is ordering 1 or 2 million vaccine doses for sheep while the decision will be taken on the 6th of November for cattle.

    Both Merial and Intervet have prototypes of vaccines available. They need only firm orders in order to get producing. After production, they need time for safety testing of vaccines. It should be possible to produce vaccines by May 2008.

    DEFRA is at the very bottom of this steep learning curve and is dithering.

    This, says an observer at the meeting in the Hague in early October, was very apparent. Any suggestion that DEFRA was told by vaccine companies that it was then too late for an order to be delivered in the spring is not the case. It is simply a matter of political will.

    Heartbreakingly, neither DEFRA nor even the British MEPs are up to speed. Precious time is being frittered away while defeatist nonsense is being spread about on the subject of bluetongue vaccine. Talk of a mere 'firefighting' amount or that vaccines will be terribly expensive "due to demand" or that since the EU is offering support out of a "very limited pot" - all this is DEFRA defeatism and bewilderment and is leading to no action at all. In short, an excuse for a headless chicken to run about in circles.

    Dr Ruth Watkins - who most certainly is up to speed - gave a talk yesterday to the Pedigree Beef Society Group at an emergency Bluetongue meeting at Stoneleigh.

    The Powerpoint presentation that she gave as an illustration to her talk really is a crash course in 'all you need to know about Bluetongue'. She concludes that inactivated vaccine is absolutely vital for us and a firm order must be made - now.

    (FOOTNOTE We hear this morning from a reliable source that DEFRA may, after all, be ordering vaccine "or will do shortly". One wonders, as always, at the entrenched mindset where everything must be kept secret. Paranoia reigns - usually a symptom of a deeper illness. But if this is true - if - then at least we can stop banging on about ordering vaccine.)

    No comments: