EUROPE’S food safety authority, Efsa, has recommended vaccination as a control measure against avian influenza in addition to existing measures.

The European Commission requested an overview of available HPAI vaccines, their efficacy in countering currently circulating virus strains, and an assessment of vaccination schemes that could guide future strategies.

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In addition, Efsa was asked to evaluate surveillance and risk mitigation measures in vaccinated areas and farms.

The work will help inform policy markers both at a European level and for member states looking for new strategies in tackling avian influenza.

There is currently only one authorised vaccine against HPAI in chickens in the EU.

It used a range of research methods to develop its recommendations, which for policymakers and risk managers include:

  • Preventive Vaccination: This strategy is recommended to minimise the number of outbreaks and the duration of epidemics. It should focus on the most susceptible and infectious poultry species in high-risk transmission areas. Booster vaccinations can enhance protection.
  • Emergency Protective Vaccination: In case of an outbreak, EFSA recommends this measure in a 3-kilometer radius around the outbreak site in high-risk transmission areas.
  • Continuous Monitoring: It is essential to monitor vaccine efficacy for all vaccination strategies, ensuring they remain effective.
  • Integrated Approach: Vaccination should complement, not replace, other preventive and control measures such as infection monitoring, early detection, biosecurity, and should be part of an integrated disease control approach.

One issue for pharmaceutical companies developing potential vaccines is that there is currently no established market within Europe for their sale.

Efsa said by developing these recommendations, it hoped to stimulate further innovation in the development of new vaccinations.

The full paper can be viewed in the Efsa journal.