The first vaccine to protect horses against the Hendra virus is now a commercial reality.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) this morning announced that a permit has been issued allowing the Australian sale and use of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Animal Health
Limited supplies of the vaccine will soon be available to horse owners and to the Australian equine industry through accredited veterinarians under strict conditions.
The announcement has been greeted by Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, and the Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans as an important step towards breaking the cycle of the disease and reducing its impact on Australia’s horse-owning community.
“For the first time, Australia has a Hendra-specific tool that provides horse owners, vets and other people that work in the industry with a greater level of safety when they come into contact with properly vaccinated horses,” the ministers said in a joint press release issued this morning.
Senator Evans congratulated CSIRO on its program of research on the Hendra virus since it was first identified in 1994.
“This facility at AAHL is the only laboratory in the world where this work could take place,” Senator Evans said.
“I congratulate CSIRO and its partners for their important efforts in both developing this vaccine and ensuring its availability for use in combating Hendra infections.
“It’s important we continue research in this field to add to the number of measures that we can use against the deadly Hendra virus.”
The vaccine will help protect people from contracting the potentially lethal virus by preventing transmission from bats to properly vaccinated horses. However, people are being warned to stay vigilant as no vaccine is one hundred percent effective and strict biosecurity measures will still be required when dealing with sick horses.
Horse owners or horse organisations seeking to vaccinate their horses should approach their local vet for details about the vaccine, horse identification procedures and costs involved.
Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh said the Queensland Government had committed $300,000 to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory to support the development of the horse vaccine.
“The vaccine has been developed through collaboration between Pfizer Animal Health, CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences and the Henry M Jackson Foundation,” said Mr McVeigh.
“The release of the vaccine offers real hope for the horse industry in the fight against Hendra.
“It is important to stress however, that this vaccine has been released under special conditions which must be followed. Only veterinarians who have completed an online training module managed by Pfizer Animal Health will be accredited to administer the vaccine.
“Queensland horse owners should discuss with their veterinarian whether vaccinating their horses is appropriate. The Government has not made the Hendra virus vaccine compulsory for horses in Queensland.
“People in contact with horses also need to continue to practice good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures even if their horses are vaccinated.”
Mr McVeigh said the Newman Government had also committed to providing $1 million over four years to provide a personal protective equipment (PPE) rebate program to support vets when dealing with suspected Hendra virus cases.
Mr McVeigh said there had been seven Hendra virus incidents in Queensland so far this year and an unprecedented 10 incidents in 2011.
In 2011, the Commonwealth Government announced a $6 million dollar contribution towards Hendra virus research over three years. CSIRO spends approximately $3 million annually on Hendra and Nipah related research.
In Australia, Pfizer Animal Health Australia has worked in close partnership with CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) to develop and trial the vaccine. The company is working with horse industry sectors, vets and with the chief veterinary officers from all states, territories and the Commonwealth, to help ensure the limited supply of vaccine is directed to areas at highest risk from Hendra virus infection.
US organisations such as the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine also contributed to the development of this important vaccine.
However the high bio-containment facility at CSIRO’s AAHL was essential for evaluating its beneficial effects.
The vaccine can only be supplied and administered under very strict conditions. It may only be used on micro-chipped horses by vets who are accredited by Pfizer Australia. The company must at all times be able to report on vaccine stock movements and use throughout the supply chain.