NETHERLANDS – In a preliminary experiment carried out in a controlled environment, two vaccinations evaluated by the Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, located northeast of Amsterdam, has demonstrated efficacy against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
A formal document posted on the Netherlands government website revealed that one vaccine was produced by the German company Boehringer Ingelheim and the other by the French company Ceva Animal Health.
“I’m happy that we have two vaccines with which we can take the vaccination process against bird flu forward. I’m putting in the next steps as quickly as possible but in a responsible way (…),” Piet Adema, Dutch Minister of Agriculture said in a statement.
Before choosing the vaccines made by Ceva Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim, Wageningen Bioveterinary Research tested four different chicken vaccines.
Merck Sharp & Dohme (MRK.N) and Huvepharma of Bulgaria developed the other two vaccines that were evaluated.
“Not only did the vaccines give poultry used in the lab protection against disease symptoms but they also countered the spreading of the bird flu,” the government said in a statement.
HPAI, commonly known as bird flu, is a serious disease caused by influenza Type A virus (influenza A) and requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal.
More than 200 million birds have been killed by avian influenza over the course of the past year, driving up the price of eggs and heightening government concerns about human transmission. Six million birds have died in the Netherlands alone.
It can infect poultry, such as chickens and turkeys, as well as free-flying waterfowl like ducks, geese and shorebirds.
Governments rethink stance on vaccines
As the virus appears to have become widespread, some other governments around the world that had rejected vaccines are rethinking their stance. Some nations, including China, currently immunize against bird flu.
Their criticism was based on worries that a vaccination may conceal the spread of bird flu, but testing has shown that the two vaccines tested in the Netherlands would not do this.
The Netherlands has been testing avian flu vaccines for egg-laying hens as part of a European initiative, while France is testing on ducks, Italy is experimenting on turkeys, and Hungary is testing on Pekin ducks.
The majority of these tests are based on already-available immunizations and tailored to the specific H5N1 strain that has been circulating in Europe.
The government will launch a field study to determine whether vaccines that are successful in a lab setting are also effective when used in more widespread situations.
In a letter to the House of Representatives President that is also available on the government website, Adema stated that the experiment should last longer than a year to offer an indication of how long hens are still immune following vaccination.