When the 2018 farm bill passed in December 2018, the inclusion of a vaccine bank against foot and mouth disease “a huge win for the pork industry,” said Mike Haag, an Illinois pork producer and president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association.
That project was just one part of a larger effort to improve biosecurity and protection from foreign animal diseases, a issue that has only increased in importance as African swine fever continues to spread across parts of Asia and Europe.
So, what is the current status of the vaccine bank?
During the Spring Legislative Fly-In, the first week of April, pork producers leaders pushed for key trade and policy issues, including increased appropriations for border security inspectors and adequate vaccine bank supplies for foreign animal disease outbreaks.
Liz Wagstrom, veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, says both disease issues are vitally important.
“There's urgency over both of the foreign national disease asks. They dovetail but we want to make sure that we don't focus on African swine fever, to such an extent we forget about foot and mouth disease,” Wagstrom says. “There's a lot of issues going on all at once, and we can't get can get wrapped up in one headline versus other headlines.”
In a recent conversations with USDA, Wagstrom says they are evaluating options for how they could purchase and store the vaccines. “And then they are looking at how you would turn over inventory as product begins to approach its useful date,” she adds.
Likely, USDA would purchase and store a vaccine antigen concentrate, she explains, that would be diluted with adjuvant in the event of a disease outbreak and bottled. The key is to manage the storage amount and shelf life, she says.
“How do you rotate your stock out with the best financial way? So, whether it's trying to sell vaccine or sell it back to company, etc., those discussions are underway,” she adds.
Where would the vaccine be stored?
“At this point in time, the expectation is it would be housed as the vaccine manufacturing facility,” Wagstrom says. “And because we don't know who the vendor would be, we don't know exactly where that facility would be. That way, if it would need to be adjuvanted and bottled, it’s right there where the manufacturer is, so they can do that quickly and get it get it in the field.”
Earlier this year, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says there is only enough supply to protect about 14% of Texas’ cattle or about 4% of Iowa’s swine herd. These are the leading states for each of those commodities.
With exports of U.S. swine, cattle and dairy products totaling more than $19 billion in 2017, the GAO warned that those shipments after an outbreak “would likely stop or be sharply reduced. Moreover, in a widespread outbreak, the scale of federal compensation payments could be substantial.”