The European Union has approved targeted preventive vaccination campaigns on poultry to be carried out in France and the Netherlands as a precautionary measure against the spread of avian influenza.

The EU has been divided about the merits of a vaccination campaign, with some suggesting that the vaccination of poultry will damage export trade if restrictions are enforced on vaccinated animals. The decision to allow targeted vaccination is cautious about such risks and the possibility of unwittingly aiding the spread of the disease. “The vaccination programmes are authorised only for specific birds in specified regions, and will be subject to rigorous surveillance and control requirements,” the Commission said. These include movement restrictions and the strict monitoring of vaccinated flocks.

The Netherlands will vaccinate hobby poultry and free range laying hens throughout the country. Vaccination will be voluntary, offered as an alternative to the requirement of keeping birds indoors. France, Europe’s biggest poultry producer, will vaccinate geese and ducks in three high-risk departments: Landes, Loire-Atlantique and Vendee.