No vaccination’ against avian influenza, says FG 

No vaccination’ against avian influenza, says FG 

  • urges stakeholders to collaborate in combating virus

The Federal Government, FG has said that there is no vaccination policy against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) as a new measure to contain the outbreak of the disease in the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohmmad Abubakar, revealed this in an address titled ‘No Vaccination’ Policy for the Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Nigeria’ during a media conference.

Abubakar described the situation of poultry farmers as crucial based on the recurrence of the disease that has depleted the population of birds and sunk down huge investments.

He said: “The briefing today is crucial in view of the ongoing and, indeed, persistent outbreaks of HPAI in Nigeria. The disease has been depleting the poultry population of our country with severe negative economic consequences on the livelihood of our poultry farmers.

“Following the resurgence of HPAI in 2014, poultry farmers and other stakeholders, who desperately wished to stop the cycle of the disease, called for a reconsideration of the NO VACCINATION POLICY. The calls have resurfaced again for the same reasons.

“Therefore, the Ministry in her avowed commitment for proper stakeholders’ consultation set up a Ministerial Committee consisting of experts from the research institutions, academia, public and private sectors and international partners to look into what the sub – sector was doing right in the past that prevented or contained the disease, what has gone wrong and importantly, what should now be done.

“Of course, if the dynamics have changed, we should be courageous enough to also change strategy in order to protect our promising and vibrant poultry industry.

“The committee which was inaugurated by my Permanent Secretary, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe on my behalf on the 24th of January 2023 met for two days in Nasarawa State, and after due consideration of scientific and socio-economic evidences available to the committee on merits and demerits of vaccination or no vaccination, best global practices as well as the recommendations of the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), the committee recommends that the country should stick to the ‘No Vaccination’ policy for now.

“Though the committee noted that the country might want to change her policy to vaccinate against HPAI in future, it recommends some activities to be carried out before considering the option of vaccination against HPAI as a policy for the country.

“These should include the following; updating the identification and characterization of circulating HPAI virus strains in Nigeria updating prevalence and associated risk factors conduct of risk assessment and analysis ascertaining the efficacy of the vaccines and risk-mapping of the poultry production systems in the country

“The status-quo on vaccination policy against HPAI in Nigeria thus remains and as such, ‘No vaccination’ against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza’ in Nigeria for now.”

However, the Minister assured farmers that the Ministry will do everything possible to control and possibly eradicate avian influenza from Nigeria.

He also appealed to development partners, individuals and organizations to support the fight against the disease currently devastating the nation’s poultry industry and livelihood of farmers.

Meanwhile, the Director Veterinary and Pest Control Service, Dr Columba Vakura, called for collaboration among stakeholders along the value chain as the disease is highly mobile, and also said there should be full compliance of hygiene measures along the poultry value chain in order to reduce chances of the disease occurring, which will make poultry products safer for consumers, and also enable people invest and make profit.   

However, on the issue of regulation and curbing of vaccines coming into the country due to the large poultry industry, Vakura cautioned that if poultry farmers go ahead to jump on vaccines without knowing the exit route such farmers will jump into confusion as he made reference to some African countries that went into vaccination, and today are still battling with the disease.

According to him, the process of vaccination is cumbersome, because “it is not just one vaccine you will give but you have to go in more than twice to make sure the birds are protected.

“Additionally, you are dealing with a virus that is highly mobile, in which two or three traits may come together and share genetic materials and give out more strains. So these are some of the disadvantages of the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, he added that the disease can be controlled without vaccination, and demonstrated that the Ministry’s surveillance system must be vibrant and up to the task in containing the disease, Vanguard reports.

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