Influenza: Vaccinations to be Made Available to Some in Australia

With containment having failed, the Australian government announced Sept. 17 that vaccinations will be made available to help stem the spread of the equine influenza (EI) outbreak.

Primary Industries minister Ian MacDonald said 10,000 shots of equine influenza vaccine will be imported for use in New South Wales.

"The vaccine represents the next phase in the campaign to eradicate the exotic horse flu, which has now infected more than 1,000 properties in New South Wales," MacDonald said in a statement delivered the day stallion Magic Albert, who stands in the Hunter Valley at Yarraman Park Stud, came down with EI.

Vaccinations would only be provided to horses inside newly created buffer zones, MacDonald said. Breeders have been crying out for a restricted "Purple Zone" in which to cover mares and get the breeding season underway. It is already 17 days late.

"Vaccine will be imported once the federal government's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator signs off on this initiative. I have already written to them on this important matter," MacDonald said.

One of the government's reasons for delaying vaccination was that the movement of sub-clinically infected vaccinated horses might spread infection to previously unaffected areas. That and the fact there simply weren't enough doses of the vaccine for all horses. Thoroughbred breeders are desperate to start getting their mares in foal as the breeding season terminates Dec. 31.

It seems that since another quarantined shuttle stallion has come down with EI, the stallions stuck there--such as Elusive Quality, Rock Of Gibraltar, Bernardini, Encosta de Lago and Danehill Dancer--will miss the Southern Hemisphere season this year.

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases, a special body within the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services (AQIS) said there are strong arguments both for and against vaccination. The biggest concern is that while it will help some animals, it is not a quick fix to the problem.

"I want to make it absolutely clear from the start that the vaccine will not be made available to each and every horse owner in New South Wales. It just won't work that way," stated MacDonald.

(Originally published at  

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Ric Chapman

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