Vaccinating Badgers

Late in 2016 Defra announced that they would not be able to supply the BCG vaccine for badger vaccination in 2017. Apparently, AJ vaccine (formally known as SSI) from Denmark did not have any available for use in badgers.

Badger being vaccinated against BTb in a cage

This was very disappointing as we had already had a year out in 2016, due to a world shortage. By way of explanation, Defra said that public health demands had created a world shortage, though they added this was easing. Ireland in the meantime had continued to vaccinate badgers using a company from Canada called Intervax. Their vaccine was produced in Bulgaria and distributed by Intervax.

Unicef announced in January of 2017 that the world shortage had eased and at a meeting with Defra we asked whether we could purchase the vaccine ourselves. Defra stated they would not stand in our way but that they couldn’t assist or pay for it, so in light of this Sue Mayer, a vet from Derbyshire, and I decided to try and source BCG from Intervax.

This was to prove very difficult as first, we needed to convince the British Veterinary Association that the Intervax BCG vaccine was safe to use. Only then would they grant us an STC license to import it in. We waited four long weeks before we had a reply. Thankfully when it came the licence was granted.

Erythristic badger in vaccination cage

We applied for 250 doses which arrived in early May 2017. Each dose costs around £46, including vat. This was £20 more than in previous years due to import costs. The National Trust paid for 100 doses for the Valley of Edale. We then helped other groups and organisations purchase BCG vaccine and as a result, many others were able to continue their programmes.

But there were still more hurdles to jump trying to get badger vaccination back on track, the next being that the new vaccine came in different containers--glass ampoules which none of the lay vaccinators had training on! In order for people to use them, we would have to give a presentation to APHA (Defra's Animal and Plant Health Agency) and teach as many lay vaccinators as possible on how to open the new ampoules. Sue Mayer made the presentation to the team at APHA and after two days of training, we had trained as many lay vaccinators as possible. Each vaccinator received a training certificate.

Badger in vaccination cage in woods

In July 2017 we met Defra in Birmingham to discuss BEVS2 (the badger edge vaccination scheme) which would replace the BEVS scheme of 2015. It would be a new four-year contract. The county of Derbyshire was designated part edge area and part high risk, but this changed on January 1st this year along with Cheshire and became a whole edge area. This meant we could vaccinate anywhere in the county. Applications for BEVS2 had to be in by January 19th. and it meant that badger groups and other like-minded conservation organisations in edge areas could apply for funding of 50% from Defra.

It is important to show the public that there is a better alternative to culling in this country which is badger vaccination. This gives our badgers a high degree of protection from the risk of catching bovine TB in the first place and also protects our wildlife for the future. Just to give you some background: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the National Trust began their 2017 vaccination programme on the first of June ending on the 22nd of October. We vaccinated 113 badgers: 59 adults, and 54 cubs, using 58 volunteers out of the 80 signed up. Happily, this number grows each year. The volunteers and the three Derbyshire badger groups are the backbone of the most successful volunteer-based badger vaccination program in the country.

If anyone would like any advice or support with badger vaccination please feel free to contact me on 07827330788 or email me at

Debbie Bailey

Lead Badger Vaccination Coordinator for Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and Badger Trust Trustee