The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Wednesday the initial purchase of vaccine for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB). With this purchase, APHIS will invest $27.1 million in foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine the Agency can use in the event of an outbreak to protect animals and help stop the spread of disease.
“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,” said Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach in a press release. “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.”
As anticipated, the beef, dairy and pork industries were thrilled to hear this announcement which gives the U.S. livestock industry comfort in knowing adequate volumes of vaccine would be available to combat a foot and mouth outbreak should one occur. Currently, the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine should an outbreak occur. 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.
“Today’s announcement is momentous, representing years of NPPC advocacy to ensure U.S. agriculture is protected should we have an FMD outbreak,” said National Pork Producers Council president Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin in a statement. “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 Under Secretary 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.”
The U.S. has not had an FMD outbreak since 1929. Still, recent foreign animal disease outbreaks in the U.S. of avian influenza and porcine epidemic diarrhea has focused attention on the importance of preparedness for other diseases, including FMD, for which outbreaks would have profound effects on international trade and animal health.
According to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), this purchase culminates a multi-year effort by NMPF and other livestock organizations working with USDA to update U.S. preparedness for a FMD outbreak.
“NMPF appreciates the leadership shown by Congress in including FMD preparedness in the 2018 Farm Bill and USDA in moving forward with implementation,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “A modernized vaccine bank signals appropriate vigilance against a threat that, while not a present danger, is always a potential risk.”
Similarly, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says this purchase is a great first step in building a national animal vaccine bank as authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.
"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 in a press release. "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.”
USDA has awarded Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) a contract to help supply the vaccine to the vaccine bank.
According to a BI press release, the contract calls for the company to create and maintain a strategic reserve of frozen vaccine antigen concentrate that the company could quickly formulate into a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the event of an outbreak in the U.S.
"As a global leader in the storage and management of FMD vaccine banks, with FMD expertise dating back more than 70 years, Boehringer Ingelheim constantly monitors emerging disease threats," said Steve Boren, Vice President of the U.S. Livestock Business at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.
The NAVVCB is one component of a three-part program established by the 2018 Farm Bill to comprehensively support animal disease prevention and management.