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Hendra vaccine shouldn’t be compulsory, parliamentary committee finds

Hendra ©Dave Hunt/AAP

Hendra virus is a serious concern for horse owners in Queensland and parts of New South Wales.

© Dave Hunt/AAP

 

By Equestrian Life

The Hendra virus vaccination has been a hotly debated topic since it was first released in late 2012.

Despite the deaths of 77 horses and 4 people from Hendra virus since it was first discovered in 1994, a Queensland parliamentary committee has found that the vaccine shouldn’t be compulsory.

Looking into the vaccine and its use by vets, the committee found that it shouldn’t be mandatory - however vets should also be free not to treat unvaccinated horses.

The committee also recommended new workplace safety laws to limit the liability of vets and outlined clear requirements for protective clothing.

Despite their findings, the committee did warn that a failure to vaccinate would result in more deaths.

Speaking to ABC News, committee chair and Gladstone MP, Glenn Butcher, explained how "vaccinating against the Hendra virus remains the most effective option for preventing horse and human deaths from the virus, according to biosecurity, workplace safety and health experts.”

"If people stop vaccinating their horses, we will see deaths from Hendra virus in Queensland again."

 

hendra_virus

Hendra virus.

 

There have long been questions hanging over the safety of the vaccine

Some horse owners in Queensland have questioned the vaccine’s efficacy and safety - despite the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) reasoning for approving the registration of the vaccine.

The committee’s report touched on both of the above aspects, stating: "Despite the assurances from the APVMA, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and others, horse owners have questioned the vaccine's efficacy and safety.”

"They argue that further testing of the vaccine is warranted on a wider range of horse breeds with differing genetic backgrounds."

The report then goes on to state: "Rather than a statistical rarity, as the adverse reaction statistics provided by Zoetis and the APMVA would suggest, horse owners describe adverse events linked to the HeV vaccine as commonplace".

Many veterinarians have chosen not to administer the vaccine, while others have opted not to treat unvaccinated horses.
The report concedes that tracking adverse reactions to the vaccine has been difficult. The committee carried out a short survey in relation to 20 deaths since 2013 that were believed to be associated with the Hendra vaccination.

 

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It was found that four of the horses died more than a year after the vaccine, while two of the deaths hadn’t been previously reported as being connected with the vaccine.
The committee’s report stated that it should be "left to the discretion of equestrian event organisers to require (the vaccine) as a

condition of entry and for horse owners to decide based on risk". That being said, the report also called for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to encourage vaccination.

There have been reports from horse owners and vets regarding adverse reactions to the vaccination since it came out in 2012 - these reactions reportedly range from colic-like symptoms, through to swelling around the neck, muscle pain and respiratory problems.

The State Government has three months to respond to the parliamentary committee's recommendations.

Long-standing concerns

Equestrian Life has covered perceived issues associated with the vaccine, including an opinion piece by Heath Ryan in the November/December 2015 issue. This was then followed by responses from both a veterinary pathologist and the veterinary operations manager at Zoetis Australia (the vaccine manufacturer).

Over the coming days, we will re-publish these articles online to provide some background information (from both sides of the fence) to this debate. Stay tuned!

Information sourced from ABC News

 

READ THE LATEST NEWS ARTICLE HERE

 

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