Combining poultry vaccination with other disease control measures to combat H5N1
International conference in Verona reviews vaccination methods
22 March 2007, Verona - Vaccinating poultry is an important tool in the worldwide
battle against the H5N1 virus combined with several other control instruments, according
to an international scientific conference that ended in Verona today.
Around 400 experts reviewed the recent experiences and achievements of vaccination
programs carried out in many countries worldwide. The conference was jointly organized
by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe), with
the support of the European Commission.
In 2007, the avian influenza virus has re-emerged in domestic birds in 11 countries.
In Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, the disease has become endemic. The meeting stressed
that since the beginning of the avian influenza crisis in late 2003 disease reporting
and control policies have substantially improved.
To date, there are 169 confirmed human deaths due to infection with H5N1 virus.
A sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has not occurred.
Fighting the disease in poultry is essential to decrease the amount of virus in
the environment and thus reduce the risk of human infection and the threat of a
possible human influenza pandemic.
The conference recommended that poultry should be vaccinated against avian influenza
particularly in endemic countries and when other control measures such as stamping
out, movement controls of poultry and biosecurity cannot stop the spread of the
A successful vaccination campaign depends mainly on the use of high quality vaccines
complying with OIE standards, appropriate infrastructure to ensure the rapid and
safe delivery of vaccines (cold chain), monitoring of vaccinated flocks, movement
control of poultry, and adequate financial resources. Efficient veterinary services
complying with OIE standards on quality and evaluation is also very important for
the suspension of the use of vaccination. Any vaccination policy should include
an exit strategy so that countries do not rely on costly long-term vaccination campaigns.
The tools differentiating infected from vaccinated animals such as DIVA strategy
or the use of sentinel birds are recommended in the field when possible. There are
no elements indicating human health implications related to the vaccination of poultry
and to the consumption of poultry products from vaccinated animals.
The conference called upon the commercial poultry industry to reinforce its engagement
in the control of avian influenza under the supervision of national veterinary authorities.
A call to international donors for the funding of vaccination in endemic countries,
with particular focus on backyard poultry, was also made.
The conference urged the development and funding of more research in the following
- Development of new and improved vaccines.
- Development of new vaccines that combine protection against H5N1 with the control
of other poultry diseases particularly Newcastle disease.
- Design of cost-effective delivery systems particularly for smallholders and backyard
- Development of a vaccination decision support model.
- Data sharing of vaccination programs conducted under field conditions.
- Impact of vaccination on production, consumption and trade.
- Impact of mass culling programs on valuable poultry genetic material.
Participants of the Verona conference also proposed to develop communication strategies
to improve the vaccination coverage, to avoid possible market shocks and to apply
basic biosecurity measures.