USDA refuses farmers’ requests on avian flu vaccine

Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it would not allow commercial release of a poultry vaccine to fight the worst outbreak of bird flu in U.S. history because it was not effective enough.

The agency said in a notice that additional criteria must be met before a vaccine can be approved for emergency use.

USDA has been developing a vaccine against bird flu and was weighing whether to release it to drug makers for widespread production.

Turkey producers in Minnesota, where nearly nine million birds have been affected by the disease since the beginning of the year, had asked USDA to approve use of a vaccine to help prevent further infections.

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USDA said the vaccines “do not meet a suitable level of efficacy.”

Poultry producers outside Minnesota had objected to approval of a vaccine out of concern that its use would further limit international trade. Major importers of U.S. poultry and poultry products have already cut shipments in the US$5.7 billion export market due to the outbreak.

USDA said “additional outreach with trading partners will be required to avoid significant market disruptions.”

Nationwide, almost 45 million birds have been killed or are due to be killed as a result of the outbreak.

Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek from Chicago.

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