Representatives from the National Pork Producers Council, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association and Iowa State University have urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to quickly establish a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank.1
FMD is a contagious viral disease. The virus causes illness in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals with divided hooves. It does not affect horses, dogs or cats. FMD is not a public health or food safety threat.2
These groups have expressed concerns that the USDA does not have enough vaccines available to avoid adverse economic consequences should an outbreak occur in the future. It has been 90 years since the United States has had an FMD outbreak.3
Researchers at University of Iowa have estimated that an outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, $44 billion to corn farmers, $25 billion to soybean farmers and job losses of more than 1.5 million over ten years.4
The groups said they recognize that the USDA has taken some measures to create a vaccine bank; however, the groups are calling for the USDA to use funding included in the 2018 Farm Bill to purchase the volume of vaccines required to effectively contain and eliminate an FMD outbreak.1
James Roth, MD, a professor in the department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said:
The U.S. vaccine bank is our best insurance policy to respond to an FMD outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies, we hope to never use it, but it’s paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. The funding provided in the 2018 Farm Bill provides a good start toward building up a more robust FMD vaccine stockpile to help protect American agriculture.”1
According to the National Hog Farmer, even when the U.S develops a vaccine bank, pre-vaccinating livestock prior to any outbreak is not an option. Dr. Roth explains that if a country declares itself free internationally of FMD but have vaccinated for it, then as outlined in international animal health rules, there would still be many hoops to jump through to export product. He says that, “Countries that would import your product want to see a lot of data to prove that that virus is not circulating in a low level, so you have to do very extensive diagnostic testing to prove that even though you’re vaccinating, there is no virus infecting the herds.”3
Dr. Roth adds that there is an even more pragmatic argument against pre-vaccinating. It is not logistically or financially practical: “There’s 23 different strains. We’d have to use 23 different vaccines to cover all possible strains in the world.”3
1 The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. Ag groups urge USDA on foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank. The Courier Oct. 10, 2019
2 Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Veterinary Services Foot and Mouth Disease. U.S Department of Agriculture July 2013.
3 Even with FMD bank, vaccinating ahead of outbreak not an option. NatinalHogFarmer.com Oct. 7, 2019.
4 Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank. AgInfo.net Oct. 9, 2019.