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Avian influenza and vaccination: what is the scientific recommendation? The OIE repeats critical requisites for best use of vaccination in birds and for a systematic exit strategy

Paris, 4 March 2009 - Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 has been eradicated in poultry in most countries where it had appeared but remains entrenched in a few countries which may put the whole planet at risk.

The OIE strongly reaffirms that eradication of the disease in poultry must go through early detection and rapid response mechanisms in front of any outbreak and through the slaughter of infected or in contact birds, using OIE standards for humane slaughter.

Countries where national veterinary services do not comply with OIE standards on quality are often not yet capable to detect nor to respond rapidly to massive avian influenza outbreaks. In these cases, vaccination should be systematically used as an intermediate control tool until the Veterinary Services comply with the relevant OIE quality standards.

There is a need for good veterinary governance enabling national animal health systems worldwide to better prevent, detect and control emerging infectious diseases. To achieve this, the OIE has created a “Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services” (PVS) designed to evaluate national Veterinary Services’ compliance with OIE standards of quality, democratically adopted by its 173 Members. This is a key lever for providing practical help for Veterinary Services of all countries to converge, achieve compliance with OIE standards and put in place good governance of their structure and their operating procedures.

After a PVS evaluation Members can request the OIE to carry out follow-up missions designed to provide advice and assistance to fill the possible gaps of their national veterinary governance.

The use of vaccination could last several years; however it will only be effective if it is applied to all poultry (chickens, hens, ducks, turkeys, geese, quails…) and through appropriate methods, particularly the use of a permanent cold chain. Vaccines should be produced in accordance with international quality standards prescribed in the OIE manual of diagnostic tests and vaccines for terrestrial animals.

As soon as national Veterinary Services are fully operational for early detection and rapid response using biosecurity measures in infected premises vaccination must be stopped; it is not recommended to use vaccination as a long term control measure since very often it contributes to hide the presence of the virus.

Any vaccination campaign must include an “exit strategy” i.e. a return to classic disease control measures.

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