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Government have been complacent in its handling of bluetongue crisis - says Farron

April 29, 2009 9:15 AM

Liberal Democrat Defra Spokesperson Tim Farron has accused the Government of being complacent in its handling of the UK's bluetongue crisis after it was revealed that millions of doses of vaccine could be thrown away. This means that the number of animals that have been immunised is much lower than the government's targets - leaving the door open to dangerous outbreaks this summer.

Figures from Defra have previously shown that uptake of the vaccine has ranged from more than 95% to less than 30%. Mr Farron has called on Defra to step up efforts to increase the uptake of the vaccine with proactive road shows - especially in areas where uptake is thought to be low such as the north of England. Local farmers are being encouraged to buy Defra's remaining stocks of vaccine, warning that, once stock is gone, the vaccines available on the free market will be more expensive.

Mr Farron has also criticised Defra for their decision to push through licences for vaccines against BTV1 to prepare the UK for any new outbreaks without issuing a tender for any supplies.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"The news that Defra ignored warnings about excess doses of vaccine and will now have to throw away millions of does is typical of this Government's handling of the bluetongue crisis, which has been bungled from start to finish.

"It's generally agreed that at least 80% of flocks need to be vaccinated, but in areas of the North West and particularly in Cumbria, we believe that they are nowhere near this target.

"With the increased temperatures of summer just around the corner, there is a very real danger that we will start to see the disease spread into areas further north and west where there is a far more limited uptake of the bluetongue vaccine.

"The Government should be doing all they can to ensure as many livestock farmers as possible vaccinate their flocks. With that in mind why have they decided to push through the licenses for vaccines against BTV1 without issuing the tender for any suppliers?"

"Defra should instruct their bluetongue 'roadshow' to target areas which have had a poor uptake of the vaccine and help educate farmers about the dangers of not vaccinating their livestock. Farmers understandably don't want to be lectured, but unless they choose to take the vaccine from Defra, they will be forced to buy it on the free market at far greater cost."