BEVA President, Dave Rendle provides a short update following the flu vaccine shortage and the flu outbreaks identified in the UK in October and November 2022.
The flu vaccine shortage was already an issue when I took office and I hope that through working positively and collaboratively with a number of other organisations we have charted a course through.
Whatever we did, some were not going to like the solution we proposed, but I think looking back we found pragmatic and effective solutions.
Long-term we may be judged on whether this episode reduces the uptake of vaccination moving forward. There have been some very vocal critics of vaccination revelling in our extension of vaccination intervals and using it as an argument to try and reduce or eliminate the requirement for 6-monthly vaccination in competition horses. As BEVA and others have been at pains to point out, the science is very clear that 6-monthly vaccination offers superior protection both for the individual and the population and should be something that we maintain if we want to continue exposing our horses to an increased risk of disease through competition.
Not all vets have stood behind the requirement for 6-monthly vaccination in the past but I would urge all BEVA members to familiarise themselves with the arguments for 6-monthly vaccination and to present a united and consistent message to horse owners so that we move forward after this unfortunate episode, not backwards.
The importance of maintaining protection of the national herd against ‘flu was brought into sharp focus with a dramatic spike in the number of flu outbreaks identified in the UK through October and November. To the best of my knowledge these were all in unvaccinated horses and most could be traced back to the rising of unvaccinated animals at shows in the UK and Ireland. We all need to do what we can to encourage the organisers of any event/sale where large numbers of horses mix to insist upon vaccination prior to entry.
It is not acceptable to expose horses to an increased risk of infectious disease and then load them onto transport for potentially long-distances knowing that this will be associated with immunosuppression and is in itself a risk factor for respiratory disease.
As the use of horses, and other animals, in sport and leisure activities comes under increasing scrutiny we do ourselves no favours by turning a blind eye to situations where welfare is clearly being compromised. Our social licence to use horses in equestrian sport has been the subject of a number of recent meetings and publications.
The BEF have produced some excellent resources on infectious disease control.