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Int Breeders Meeting 2: Vaccination Debate

Wednesday, 12th March 2008

Meanwhile "how to prevent a future outbreak of equine influenza turned into one of the hottest points of contention" at the International Breeders' Meeting in Melbourne, reported racingpost.co.uk. The main issue was "whether quarantine alone could suffice or whether horses in Australia should be vaccinated regularly to prevent recurrence of the disease". Plans were put forward by Thoroughbred Breeders' Australia for a Vaccination Summit (including experts from around the world) to be held this year & the IBM "agreed to support the implementation of a vaccination programme in Australia, although the delegation from New Zealand (the only country now completely free of the disease) declined to voice an opinion". Equine infectious disease specialist Dr James Gilkerson (from the faculty of veterinary science at the University Of Melbourne) "rejected the idea of a regular vaccination programme" & instead "argued that with recovery from the outbreak well on its way, equine influenza will soon be eradicated from Australia & quarantine should be the 1st stop in keeping the country free of the disease". Gilkerson summed up: "Effective quarantine services can protect our horse population. I don't think vaccination in Australia will protect against future outbreaks: I think that's the job of quarantine & I don't think anyone from overseas believes that it's vaccination that prevents influenza coming into their countries." However Gilkerson's argument was challenged by TBA president John Messara "who responded with a vigorous cross-examination" & declared: "How can you explain that every other racing nation that has had an outbreak of EI is now following a vaccination regime? Why is every other country in the world following that line of policy & you're advocating another one?" US expert Dr David Powell (an epidemiologist at the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky) also suggested quarantine might not be sufficient insurance against another outbreak, noting: "In recent times we have had to accept it is not just in Australia, but in Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa & other countries there's been a breakdown of quarantine. We should bear that in mind." However Messara (principal of Arrowfield Stud where 1,000 mares were bred last year) said "by his own estimate, EI had caused an economic loss to the thoroughbred industry of more than $1 billion." And speaking to racingpost.co.uk after the session, Messara "said of the view opposing regular vaccination: The rest of the world vaccinates, so why don't we? We've always felt safe as an island, but we wanted to open up & be a part of the world & we're proud that we've done that. But there is a consequence." Messara noted he agreed with the "purist view" that EI should be eradicated. But, he added, the industry "wants the insurance of vaccination".

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