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.