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Badgers to be given out-of-date TB vaccine due to treatment shortage

By Linda Stewart

Badgers in Co Down are to administered an out-of-date vaccine for tuberculosis that the Welsh Government can no longer legally use, it can be revealed.

The animals will be captured and vaccinated this summer as the third year of a Government-organised project to tackle TB in cattle begins.

Due to a worldwide shortage, no fresh BCG vaccine is available for the third year of the research project, Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen said.

Instead, the test and vaccinate or remove (TVR) research project will use an old vaccine.

"The worldwide shortage of BCG vaccine means the badger vaccine used in years one and two was unavailable for purchase," the minister said.

"It was possible, however, to obtain a supply of out-of-date BCG vaccine from the Welsh Government.

"While the Welsh Government could not legally use this in a badger vaccination programme, it will be permissible for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs ("DAERA ) to use it as part of TVR as it is a research project.

"DAERA officials are in the process of organising a stakeholder event for farmers in the TVR area, to update them on this development."

Last year, 692 badgers were captured around the Banbridge countryside as part of the TVR scheme. Some 351 of them were badgers re-captured from the first year of the project.

The scheme began in 2014 and is aimed at finding out more about the disease and vaccinating or removing badgers in an area of high cattle TB prevalence.

It will provide new information on badgers and the disease and was introduced at a time when culling was being enacted in England and Wales in the hope of fighting the spread of TB in cattle. Year two was completed in October 2015 in a TVR selected area of 100km around Banbridge, Co Down, in which there were 692 captures. This was made up of 341 unique badgers, with most of those held being captured on more than one occasion.

Ms McIlveen said: "I would like to thank the 95% of farmers and landowners who granted access to their land last year to enable my veterinary staff to carry out this important work.

"I would encourage any farmers or landowners who did not participate in years one or two of the programme to consider doing so as we move into years three to five.

"The third year of the project will commence in late June or early July.

"Similar to year two, it will involve the capture of wild badgers, sampling, micro-chipping and vaccinating them against bovine TB, with the removal from the TVR area of any badgers testing positive for bovine TB."

The TVR intervention research project will run for five years and will require the capture of badgers between June and November annually.

In year one, all captured badgers were sampled, micro-chipped and vaccinated against bovine TB, then released.

But from last year until 2018, all badgers testing TB positive will be culled.

Those testing negative will still be sampled, micro-chipped and vaccinated.

Farmers and landowners in the TVR area who did not take part during the last couple of years of the scheme, but who wish to participate part this year, should contact Newry DVO at Glenree House, Unit 2, Springhill Road, Carnbane Industrial Estate, Carnbane, Newry, BT35 6EF, or alternatively telephone 0300 200 7840.

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