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Irony in Europe  (with kind permission of the BOW Group)

Cattle in the UK are routinely vaccinated against diseases, but the use of TB vaccines is banned under EU law (Directive 78/52 EEC, 1977).47 This is because, ironically, the bovine BCG vaccine interferes with the mandatory tuberculin skin test. Cattle that had been vaccinated would technically fail the test, meaning they couldnʼt be declared Officially TB Free (OTF) for trading and the EU has also imposed a ban on trading non-OTF cattle (Directive 64/432/EEC, 1964).48

Defra is approaching this conundrum in three ways – developing a test that can differentiate between the vaccine and the tuberculin skin test, working with the EU to change legislation that permits the trade of cattle that have had the test and continuing research into a bovine BCG, so that when the law changes, immunisation is ready.

In late 2011, following years of research into bovine BCG49 since the Krebs report was first published, Defra submitted a candidate vaccine to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for marketing approvalʼ, which is the first step towards the availability of a vaccine for use in the market. A further £9.3m has been budgeted over the next 4 years for research into a cattle vaccine.50 Field studies in Ethiopia51 and Mexico52 have demonstrated the protective effect of cattle vaccination to be between 56% and 68%.

However, Defra believes that an opportunity to change EU legislation to permit the use of a bovine BCG would not be available until 2015, with application in the field unlikely until 2017. Defraʼs own report states “We are continuing to invest heavily in research, in particular to develop a cattle vaccine and an oral badger vaccine. However, these are still many years away and we cannot predict with any certainty when they might be ready to deploy.”1

46 Wildlife Trusts to vaccinate in pilot badger cull areas, Wildlife Trusts 19 Jan 2012, available

here: www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2012/01/19/wildlife-trusts-vaccinate-pilot-badger-cull-areas

47 Council Directive 78/52/EEC of 13 Dec 1977 establishing the Community criteria for

national plans for the accelerated eradication of brucellosis, tuberculosis and enzootic

leukosis in cattle, available here: eurlex.


48 Council Directive 64/432/EEC of 26 Jun 1964 on animal health problems affecting intra-

Community trade in bovine animals and swine, available here: eurlex.


49 SE3212 Testing TB vaccines in cattle, available here:


50 Cattle vaccination, Defra 6 Feb 2012, available here: www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/az/


51 Ameni, G., Vordermeier, M., Aseffa, A., Young, D.B., Hewinson, R.G. 2010. Field

evaluation of the efficacy of Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin against bovine

tuberculosis in neonatal calves in Ethiopia, Clin. Vaccine Immunol. 17: 1533-1538

52 Lopez-Valencia G., Renteria-Evangelista T., Williams Jde J., Licea-Navarro A., Mora-Valle

Ade L., Medina-Basulto G. (2009). Field evaluation of the protective efficacy of

Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccine against bovine tuberculosis. Res Vet Sci. 2010 Feb;

88(1):44-9. Epub 2009 Jun 28

1 Bovine TB Eradication Programme for England, Defra 19 Jul 2011, available here:


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