Former APHIS administrator and AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven, along with other veterinarians, calls for greater investment in vaccine capacity to combat an outbreak of FMD in the United States.
Former APHIS administrator and AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven, along with other veterinarians, calls for greater investment in vaccine capacity to combat an outbreak of FMD in the United States.

If foot and mouth disease (FMD) were to break out in the United States, vaccination would play a key role in minimizing the economic damage while eradicating the disease. Currently though, we lack the capacity to rapidly supply adequate doses of vaccine to combat even a moderate outbreak.

This week, 23 veterinarians from the National Pork Producers Council’s (NPPC) Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program visited Capitol Hill to promote the creation of a robust FMD vaccine bank through the 2018 Farm Bill.

A news release from the NPPC notes there are seven distinct types of FMD virus recognized worldwide, with each type including multiple subtypes. Any FMD vaccine to be used in the control of an outbreak has to precisely match the type and subtype of the FMD virus present in the field at the time.

The USDA currently operates a small North American foot and mouth disease vaccine bank for use by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico at the USDA and DHS facility at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, NY.  The World Reference Laboratory for FMD recommends that vaccine banks maintain 23 different vaccines to cover the more than 60 known strains of the FMD virus. The North American FMD Bank has only about 14 strains with only a few million doses of each strain.  “Surge capacity” remains limited, as finished vaccines must be manufactured overseas and there is very limited worldwide capacity to produce the hundreds of thousands of doses that the U.S. would need quickly in a large outbreak.

According to the NPPC, even in a moderate, regional “Type 2” FMD outbreak, up to 10% of the U.S. livestock population would be vaccinated, commencing approximately four days after the initial detection is confirmed and lasting for approximately six months.

Recently, veterinarian Ron DeHaven, a former administrator with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and former CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association, issued a letter calling for establishment of a more robust FMD bank, with production based overseas for biosecurity reasons. Looking ahead, DeHaven encourages continued research and development on next-generation vaccines that could be safely manufactured in the United States.

Prominent veterinarians endorsed DeHaven’s letter, including  

·         Lonnie J. King, DVM, MS, MPA, Diplomate ACVPM - Professor & Dean Emeritus, Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a former APHIS administrator.

·         James A. Roth, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVM - Director, Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University.

·         Alfonso Torres, DVM, MS, PhD - Emeritus Professor, Cornell University, former APHIS deputy administrator and former director of Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

The letter offers three primary conclusions:

1.      The U.S. response strategy for an outbreak of FMD is heavily dependent on rapid and extensive use of vaccination, and the current stockpile of FMD vaccine and vaccine antigen concentrate is woefully inadequate to meet the anticipated demand.

2.      Even if live FMD viruses were to be allowed in commercial facilities in the U.S., producing enormous quantities of live, virulent FMD virus needed for large scale vaccine production increases the risk of an accidental release exponentially. The limited benefit of having such a vaccine production facility in the U.S. simply does not outweigh the enormous risks.

3.      The U.S. should contract with one or more corporations for the offshore production and stockpiling of sufficient quantities of FMD vaccine, and develop sufficient surge capacity to allow for the production of adequate quantities of a specific type/subtype of FMD vaccine in the event of an ongoing U.S. outbreak.

Read the DeHaven paper online.