Cattle vaccine 'could take over ten years'
A vaccine to curb the spread of tuberculosis in cows that is ruining Westcountry farming could take more than the ten years previously forecast to come to fruition, a minister has signalled.
In January, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg wrote to ministers saying the prospect of licensing a cattle vaccine was highly unlikely before 2023. But when probed by MPs at a Commons hearing, British Farming Minister David Heath said getting EU member states unaffected by the disease to sign off could mean the process takes even longer.
Critics of the Government's plan to cull badgers to tackle bovine TB have long demanded vaccination be deployed instead. But Mr Heath, a Somerset MP, said it would be "foolish" to assume countries on the continent would give their blessing easily. He told MPs on Tuesday: "I can't give any guarantee that other member states that are not in the same situation as the UK and Ireland are going to want to accommodate us."
At the rural affairs Select Committee yesterday, chairman Anne McIntosh MP said the government previously claimed a cattle vaccine would be available by 2012 – and that 2023 was "wildly out of kilter with what the public has been led to believe".
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Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said the revelation underlined that there is no "magic bullet" to tackle the disease.
He added: "How can Defra manage the perception of this – that this is not just around the corner?"
Mr Heath said he would "love" a vaccine to be available earlier, but added: "We have always said it would be a very long process and what Commissioner Borg has done in his letter is confirm that."
In Cornwall last year, TB surged by 18%, while in Devon it leapt by 8%, with a total of 8,549 animals slaughtered in the two counties as a result.