Russia may change bird flu vaccination strategy for poultry

Russia is considering changing its vaccination strategy for poultry stocks against avian influenza, taking into account food security concerns that have emerged against the backdrop of Western sanctions, Natalya Moroz, deputy production director of the Russian Federal Center for Animal Health, told Russian publication Veterinary & Life.

Industrial poultry farms in Russia have never been instructed to vaccinate their entire poultry populations. Only backyard farms with free-range birdlife in Russia are required to vaccinate the flock against bird flu, Moroz said.

Mass vaccination of poultry in Russia was avoided because of the negative impact it could have on export potential, Moroz said, adding that from the point of view of ensuring safety for humans, the ‘stamping out’ strategy, which involves all birds slaughtered at affected poultry farms seemed a more reliable option to fight the disease.

Food security at stake

Moroz added that the scientist noted that bird flu, on the other hand, has undermined food security in several countries where major outbreaks have been recorded in recent years. For this reason, some states have already started mandatory mass vaccination on poultry farms.

Russian authorities are also considering changing the vaccination strategy, Moroz said, adding that the move is being discussed by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, sanitation service Rospotrebnadzor and business groups.

Moroz also said that in the context of severe sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia, “it is necessary to foresee all scenarios of the development of the epizootic situation in the country”. Moroz added: “And if avian flu becomes a threat to food security, everything will have to be done to save breeding and parent flocks. And here vaccination becomes a necessary tool to maintain the veterinary well-being of the poultry industry.”

New vaccine

Scientists at the Russian Federal Center for Animal Health recently developed a new vaccine against highly pathogenic avian influenza. It is scheduled to launch in industrial production in early fall, Moroz said.

The scientist said the new vaccine was developed based on the Yamal strain of the low-pathogenic influenza A virus of the H5N1 subtype isolated in Russia.

As Moroz explained, the advantage of the new vaccine lies in its high immunogenicity, ie its ability to protect birds from infection with the current highly pathogenic influenza A viruses of the H5 subtype. She also added that the drug is characterized by high safety associated with the use of an antigen made on the basis of a low-pathogenic influenza A virus of subtype H5 in its composition.

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