Posts Tagged Vaccination

Animal rights groups search Gloucestershire for wounded badgers as second phase of pilot badger cull begins


ANIMAL rights groups have started their search for wounded badgers across Gloucestershire as the second round of the pilot cull has begun.

The next phase of culling started last night in a bid to eradicate bovine TB in cattle by shooting 615 animals, Defra has announced.

Opponents say a vaccination programme would be more effective in tackling the disease.

Scott Passmore, from A Wildlife with Animals which is based in the Forest of Dean, said: “We started at Newent and at one point we were near Deerhurst and I have mammal handling equipment in the car and many badger setts can be seen from the roadside.

“We did not find any wounded badgers last night. But my view is this is totally wrong and if anything this is going to make TB worse.

“They should be addressing the real problem, which is cattle movement and bio-security on farms.

“We have been finding lamb carcasses left in fields, deer heads hanging on trees and we have been finding all sorts of undesirable things left in fields but unfortunately the wildlife is being used as a scapegoat.”

Activists operating for the Gloucestershire Badger Office patrolled most of the zone which lies between the M5, M50 and A40 to guard badger setts from cull marksmen.

Anti-cull campaigner Drew Pratten, from the Forest of Dean, said: “We had a phenomenal amount of support last night including people from Manchester and Derbyshire saying ‘we are here for one night, what can we do’?

“There are people actually guarding setts, people on lookout points and at crossroads where we can see what’s happening.”

NFU president Meurig Raymond said in the South West, where bovine TB is endemic and where herds are being reinfected despite farmers’ best efforts to protect the, controlling the disease in badgers has to be an essential part of any strategy to wipe the disease out.

He said: “Nobody would choose to kill badgers if there was an effective alternative in areas where TB is rife. But if we’re ever going to get on top of TB in areas where the disease is endemic there is no other choice.

“The chief vet has said culling over a four-year period in both pilot areas will have an impact on disease control. I am confident that these pilot culls will help deliver a reduction in bTB in cattle and it is vital that they are allowed to be successfully completed so they can deliver the maximum benefits.

Environmental secretary Elizabeth Truss said the Government is pursuing a comprehensive strategy supported by leading vets which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in edge areas and culling badgers where the disease is rife. She said: “This is vital for the future of our beef and dairy industries, and our nation’s food security.

“At present we have the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe. Doing nothing is not an option which is why we are taking a responsible approach to dealing with bovine TB.”

The pilot cull will run for the next six weeks.

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Needle Free Vaccination

How good would this be? According to a recent TED talk by Mark Kendall it could soon become reality (

Instead of using a needle and syringe the vaccine is applied via a patch that is placed on the skin. The patch contains thousands of projections that release the vaccine into the top layers of the skin. As well as being pain free the administration of the vaccine into the skin, rather than the muscle, also generates a more powerful immune response. This means that much less vaccine is required (up to one hundredth of the traditional dose) lowering the cost and decreasing the possibility of undesirable side effects.

The vaccine that coats the patch is in a dry form. Therefore, it does not need to be refrigerated, unlike traditional vaccines, and will retain its potency at 23 C for up to a year. This makes it much more feasible to use in countries where electricity and refrigeration are difficult to guarantee, such as Papua New Guinea which has only 800 refrigerators. Patch trials are due to start there soon.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Vaccination of badgers is launched

From the Western Gazette, North Dorset at

CONSERVATIONISTS in Dorset began their own battle against badgers with TB this week, but have begun to vaccinate them instead of culling them.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust said it wants to demonstrate there is a “safe, humane alternative” to badger culling, and has embarked on a five-year programme to vaccinate all the badgers living on some of its nature reserves in the county.

With the prospect of the badger cull moving from west Gloucestershire and west Somerset to Dorset and Wiltshire next year, the Dorset Wildlife Trust said it wanted to show there were “more effective and reliable” ways of controlling bovine TB.

It launched a successful appeal to fund the project, trained volunteers and has now started the five-year programme which has already seen badgers trapped and vaccinated at ‘selected’ locations throughout the county.

“Dorset Wildlife Trust wants to see the eradication of the devastating disease bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and understands the serious implications for farmers who lose stock as a result, but believes there are more effective and reliable ways of controlling the disease, such as better biosecurity, badger vaccination and, in the long term, cattle vaccination,” said chief executive Dr Simon Cripps.

“Badger vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB without the negative impacts of increasing the transference of bTB among infected and healthy badgers and cattle that culling would bring. We were extremely disappointed to see the Government drive forward with the badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire in August this year. The recent news that the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have finished with low numbers of badgers being shot, strengthens the need for the Government to support alternative methods to culling.

“Our understanding from Defra is that if badger culling continues despite these failures, shooting in Dorset is highly likely to start in 2014.  Thanks to our successful badger vaccination appeal, Dorset Wildlife Trust is pleased to be able to start a vaccination programme on selected nature reserves in Dorset, to both protect badgers and support farmers,” he added.

Meanwhile, the RSPCA has been told it cannot use an anti-badger cull advert again which used the term “exterminate” to describe the Government’s cull trials.

The ad featured an image of a syringe and bullet at the top with a headline “Vaccinate or Exterminate?”

Tory MP Simon Hart, a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, was one of more than 100 people who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, although three of the four grounds for complaint were dismissed by the advertising watchdog, it agreed the use of the word “exterminate” implied wrongly that every  badger in the cull area would be shot.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “The RSPCA welcomes the judgment by the ASA to dismiss three out of four of the areas of complaint about the advert. We respectfully disagree in relation to the one area of complaint that has been upheld.”

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Bless You (Again)!

This time we are talking about flu, not cute primates with upturned noses. It’s that time of year again, at least in the southern hemisphere, and there are a few simple precautions you can take to help you through.

As previously mentioned in Vaccination 101 there are lots of different flu viruses that, unlike leopards, do change their spots regularly. This makes it impossible to control all of them with a single vaccine. However, each year the World Health Organisation recommends which three flu strains to stick in the current year’s vaccine, and I certainly recommend getting it. It stops you feeling miserable and may even save your life. If work places displayed any common sense they would vaccinate all their employees for free. The savings in sick leave taken would surely compensate for the cost of the vaccination. But you don’t have to be vaccinated if you don’t want to. Your plane won’t be shot down, you won’t be rounded up and forcibly jabbed and you won’t be stopped from travelling and infecting other people.

The trouble with flu viruses is they get around, fast. It is estimated that, if a new flu strain emerged in Europe, it would hit Australia in four to eight weeks, despite our relative isolation from the rest of the world. While the H1N1 flu turned out to be relatively benign (only killing 0.03% of the people it infected) it did hit 70 million people. The H5N1 flu has killed 60% of its victims but has only infected 600 people ( Because it targets receptors in the lower respiratory tract it is harder to spread but more deadly. Unfortunately it would not take many mutations for H5N1 to start spreading like H1N1. Then we’ll see who thinks vaccination is a waste of time.

Apart from receiving a needle the best form of prevention has been discussed previously. Boring though it sounds, here it is: wash your hands, with soap, regularly. Flu viruses survive in the air for up to an hour, on hands for five minutes, on soft cushions for 20 minutes and on hard surfaces for 24 hours. So, every time your flu sufferer touches anything they will also be applying a liberal dose of virus. When you then touch the same surface, or shake that hand, you also receive a helping of virus. Alternatively use alcohol wipes on your hands. Monk wasn’t nearly as crazy as he was made out to be in his TV series.

Depending on your level of paranoia you could also avoid crowded areas such as public transport, classrooms and offices, as these all have lots of possibly contagious people and minimal air movement. Stay away from small children and keep at least two metres between yourself and your infected colleagues.

Unfortunately the time when people are most contagious and shedding the most virus is a day or two before they develop symptoms. They will remain contagious for about another four days after symptoms start, so do yourselves, and the rest of the world, a favour. Stay home and finish that book, win that Playstation Stanley Cup or watch all those episodes of Get Smart you always promised yourself you would. And, in the words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from Hillstreet Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Dr. F. Bunny

And if you’re still not convinced see:

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Vaccination 101

“Just one question, what is Immobilo and how does it work?”

“Actually that’s two questions.”

“He’s bright. I like that.” (Get Smart, Episode 8, Our Man in Leotards).

So, what is vaccination, and how does it work?

All life forms, from humans down to earthworms, have some kind of internal defence system used to ward off unwanted invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In vertebrates these are the white blood cells. There are two main types. One group produces antibodies, while the others wander around killing trespassers directly. In most cases antibodies don’t kill invaders by themselves but incapacitate them in such a way that the killer cells have an easier time of it.

The thing about the antibody producing cells is that they have memories, quite long memories in some cases. If the same enemy pops up subsequent to an earlier defeat they move into action much faster and produce antibodies earlier than before. In this way they get on top of the infection before the infection gets on top of them. It is this memory that is exploited by vaccination.

All invaders have proteins on their surface that the white blood cells recognise as being foreign and not belonging in the body. When they detect these proteins they swing into action. There are two types of vaccines. Killed vaccines contain the proteins but the agent is dead. Modified live vaccines also contain the proteins but the agent is still alive. It has been rendered incapable of causing disease but, because it is alive, provokes a more vigorous longer lasting response

Once the vaccine is administered antibodies are produced and the white blood cell memory kicks in. In that way if they encounter the real disease in the future they swing into action earlier and prevent disease from happening. This is why vaccines work to prevent disease but are not of much use once the disease has taken hold.

Unfortunately white blood cell memory is very specific and will only recognise one particular version of a disease causing agent. That is why we need a different flu vaccine each year. Flu viruses are covered in one of 16 different proteins called haemagglutinins (H) in combination with one of nine different proteins called neuraminidases (N), hence H1N1 (swine flu) or H5N1 (bird flu). Unfortunately the cells that recognise H1N1 ignore H5N1 or any of the other flu combinations. The discovery of a protein present on all flu viruses may finally lead to the development of a universal flu vaccine that will protect against all flu viruses. The same holds for cold viruses. Every time we catch cold we are infected with a brand new virus the body has not seen before. When our family catches cold and we avoid it this may be because we have already contracted that virus at a prior point.

Unfortunately vaccines are not 100% effective, and can occasionally cause side effects. As Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” tells us, “We’re all individuals”. Consequently we all react differently, with some people achieving better protection than others. Getting vaccinated while we are sick will decrease its effectiveness because our white blood cells are otherwise occupied. People with compromised immune systems will also not respond well to vaccination. Unfortunately some people have adverse reactions to vaccines. These are rare and usually mild but can occasionally be quite severe. It doesn’t happen often and, as vaccine technology improves, will continue to become rarer, but that is no consolation for the people who are affected.

It is these sorts of events that help fuel a lot of the anti-vaccine hysteria. Presumably these people are genuinely concerned about the negative effects of vaccination and whether or not they actually work.

It has been said that improved hygiene and nutrition are responsible for the decline in diseases, not vaccination. Like any war victory comes from employing multiple strategies. Vaccination is just one of those strategies. When used in concert with better food and sanitation it can play a major role in decreasing the incidence of diseases, but it can also be very effective on its own. As an example, in the early 1990s there were about four million chicken pox cases annually in the US, a country with good hygiene and nutrition. After the introduction of a chicken pox vaccine in 1995 the incidence of chicken pox had dropped by 85% by 2004 ( Confusingly anti-vaccinationists trot out figures showing an increase in the incidence of certain diseases post-vaccination. When confronted with contradicting tables of figures it is very difficult to make an informed decision. Who do you believe?

Unfortunately the anti-vaccinationists haven’t done themselves any favours by supporting various bizarre conspiracy theories. One of my favourites revolves around the plane crash in Smolensk that killed the Polish president two years ago. Apparently the plane was shot down because Poland was the only country not to buy H1N1 vaccines ( Even though smallpox has been officially eradicated from the world we are still getting reports that it is alive and well and causing disease in India ( The exciting thing is that, with the assistance of vaccination, a second disease has now been made extinct. Rinderpest, a scourge of cattle farmers for thousands of years, is no more. Perhaps the greatest blow to anti-vaccination credibility was the manipulation of evidence by a physician in an attempt to show that vaccination caused autism. His paper was withdrawn from the medical journal in which it was published and he was struck off the Medical Register for falsifying results (

I will admit to being biased, because I am medically trained, but I have seen first-hand evidence that vaccinated animals mount an immune response and resist disease challenge. Given the rather dubious information put out by the anti-vaccinationists I prefer to be on the side supported by credible evidence and will continue to vaccinate myself, my family and the animals in my care. Not to do so would be irresponsible in my view.

Dr. F. Bunny

How disease occurs is an interesting and extremely complex subject. For pandemics to take off multiple factors need to take place. To better understand these interactions I can recommend a board game called “Pandemic”. Uniquely, players battle not against each other but against four diseases raging across the globe. They must find a cure and wipe out the diseases before they extinguish humanity’s light. Conversely, if you prefer your medicine on the dark-side there is an interesting phone app called “Plague”. In this game you take the part of the disease. You must mutate your organism to enhance its transmission, resistance and lethality. Both games provide insight into how difficult it is for a disease outbreak to start and, once started, how hard it can be to stop it in its tracks.


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