The UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra) has made no provisions to vaccinate poultry in the event of an outbreak and does not intend to make any.

The department believes that swift detection, culling of infected flocks, and movement controls are more effective and efficient strategies for control of disease than the vaccination of birds, should an outbreak of avian flu occur.

Defra spokesperson Matt Radley told just-food that the bird flu vaccine would only be used on rare and endangered species, with 2m doses reserved for these purposes. “Philosophically we have no problem with the vaccination, but are not in the logistical position to individually inoculate every bird,” Radley said.

Limited target use of the vaccination has been used on poultry in Holland, and in two regions of France.

The H5N1 virus type has been reported in 31 countries worldwide over the past 12 months, and the H5 virus type reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, and Switzerland.

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The State Vetinary Service (SVS), a UK government executive agency working on contingency plans for the event of an outbreak, has not kept a record of how many  requests state veterinary surgeons have received for the vaccination of birds against avian influenza.

SVS spokesperson Louise Hebbron told just-food: “The current policy is that exotic birds can be vaccinated. Defra makes the policy on this and we deliver, but there are no provisions made at the moment.” 

In the event of an outbreak of avian influenza, defra will permit poultry movements under license, according to Bradshaw, depending on risk assessments and the proximity of poultry to infected premises.