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FEI speaks out about Hendra vaccine uproar

Horse grazing. Image: Pixabay


By Equestrian Life

Over the past week, there has been considerable outrage over reports that the FEI Veterinary Committee planned to discuss a proposal for a rule change regarding compulsory Hendra Vaccination of all horses competing at FEI events in Hendra affected areas of Australia.

The FEI has now released a statement, explaining that its Veterinary Committee has met and discussed the topic at its in-person meeting in Lausanne and “agreed unanimously that there will be no proposal to impose the Hendra vaccination.”

Furthermore, in response to questions directed at Equestrian Australia and the Australian FEI Head Vet for perceived discussing of the matter without member input, FEI has explained that “at no point did the National Head Veterinarian recommend mandatory Hendra vaccination” and “the FEI Veterinary Department was not in contact with the office of Equestrian Australia on the matter until 1 November 2019”.

Introduced in 2014, the vaccine has been surrounded by controversy ever since with many alleging their horses suffered severe reactions over the past few years. Further controversy ensued in 2018 when EA attempted to enter a partnership agreement with Zoetis (the vaccine manufacturer), however this was abandoned after major complaints from members. At present, a $53 million class action against Zoetis is underway due to the equine reactions and deaths after vaccinations.

The full press release from the FEI:

Clarification on Hendra virus

Lausanne 6 November 2019

Further to the FEI Veterinary Committee Report, published on the FEI website under point 27.1 on the FEI General Assembly documentation, which stated the Veterinary Committee would decide whether to propose that horses from Hendra virus affected areas must be vaccinated against the disease in order to attend FEI Events: The FEI Veterinary Committee has now met and discussed Hendra virus at its in-person meeting in Lausanne (SUI) today, and agreed unanimously that there will be no proposal to impose the Hendra vaccination.

The FEI Veterinary Committee discussions were triggered initially by an incident at an FEI Endurance event in Australia earlier this year. The FEI Veterinary Department is continuing to look into the circumstances surrounding this incident in order to ensure that fundamental requirements of the FEI Regulations can be met at FEI events.

As part of this review, the National Head Veterinarian was asked to share official Australian Government documentation and the Summary of adverse experience report made to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) about Hendra virus vaccine with the FEI Veterinary Department, which was done.

It is important to note that at no point did the National Head Veterinarian recommend mandatory Hendra vaccination to the FEI Veterinary Committee or the FEI Veterinary Department. For the avoidance of any doubt, the FEI Veterinary Department was not in contact with the office of Equestrian Australia on the matter until 1 November 2019 following the statement published by the Chair of the National Federation.

The Veterinary Department, together with the FEI Veterinary Committee, is fully committed to engaging with Equestrian Australia imminently on how to address concerns regarding the Hendra virus. As soon as the review process is completed, Equestrian Australia will be given the opportunity to provide submissions on this issue. No decision will be made without full consultation with National Federations, including Equestrian Australia.

The FEI is aware of social media posts regarding individuals involved in this, but while everyone has aright to voice their opinion and we are aware of the sensitivities of this topic, we do not condone harassment of any sort and we ask people to be respectful when posting on this issue.

Source: FEI press release


According to Equestrian Australia’s latest press release (7 November) on the above statement, EA’s position is that “there should be no mandatory vaccination.”

Further statements from EA on the matter can be found here:

1 Nov: https://www.equestrian.org.au/news/statement-ea-chair
2 Nov: https://www.equestrian.org.au/news/update-chairman
5 Nov: https://www.equestrian.org.au/news/ceo-statement

What is Hendra virus?

Hendra virus was first diagnosed in Australia in 1994. A zoonotic disease, it can be passed from animal to human. It is believed that horses catch the virus by having contact with feed, water or other items contaminated by the body fluids (urine, faeces) of flying foxes. In some cases infected horses have transmitted the virus to other horses via close contact with their body fluids. Humans have also contracted the virus from infected horses.

As of August 2019, there have been 62 confirmed incidents of Hendra virus in Australia, resulting in the death of 84 horses. Seven people have been infected and four of them have died. All of these cases have been in Queensland or northern New South Wales.






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