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Press releases

Brussels, 28 March 2001

FMD : SVC agrees to UK contingency plan

The Standing Veterinary Committee representing the Member States of the European Union gave today a favourable opinion to the proposal of the European Commission fixing the conditions applicable if the plan for emergency vaccination of cattle in Devon and Cumbria (UK) is applied by the UK authorities. While confirming their strong commitment to the policy aimed at foot and mouth disease eradication the Committee acknowledged that in Devon and Cumbria there is a specific epidemiological situation where the disease is already widespread in sheep. The Committee confirmed that there is no support for general preventive vaccination of animals in the EU as a whole. The forthcoming Commission proposal for a revised Council Directive on Community measures for the control of FMD will, however, provide an opportunity for wide-ranging debate on all issues including in particular the use of preventive vaccination. The Committee agreed that the question of a possible preventive vaccination of zoo animals shall be discussed in an expert working group next Friday and by the Chief Veterinary Officers of all Member States who meet tomorrow in their meeting of the Council.

The UK request is prompted by the exceptional circumstances in the counties of Cumbria and Devon. In these counties a very large number of FMD infected sheep are being found, without showing evident signs of disease. There are also exceptional problems related to culling a huge number of FMD susceptible animals. The Committee recognised that these exceptional circumstances warrant an exceptional response. It was considered appropriate, therefore, to ask the Committee to clarify the conditions under which protective FMD vaccination could be used as an additional tool for the eradication of the disease.

In the event that vaccination takes place, about 180 000 cattle would be vaccinated and would need to be clearly identified as such in their passports. The vaccinated cattle would not be moved from the vaccination zones for more than one year after the last outbreak in that area and in no case to other Member States as they might in principle spread the FMD virus to other animals, if infected just before full immunity develops. The meat and the milk of these animals could be used subject to specific treatments which will ensure possible FMD virus destruction (pasteurisation of milk, maturation of meat).

Furthermore, the trade restrictions which are applied in Great Britain since 21 February will continue to stay in force. As a consequence no live animals nor any derived non-treated products which might spread the FMD virus can be marketed outside the UK.

If the UK resorts to the possibility of protective vaccination it shall ensure that Member States and the Commission are officially informed on further details of the envisaged vaccination campaign, such as the exact area where protective vaccination will take place.

Such a possible campaign would of course have an temporary and geographically limited impact on the FMD status of the UK. In the light of the control standard in place at international level, the internationally recognised status of other Member States being «FMD-free without vaccination » is not in question.

Released on 30/03/2001


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