The government will impose strict controls on the quality, effectiveness and use of avian flu vaccines among Thai poultry and bird flocks, senior officials from the Department of Public Health stressed today.
Speaking in response to the government’s approval in principle of the introduction of an avian flu vaccine for birds and chickens other than those destined for export, Dr. Charal Trinvuthipong, who heads the government’s bird flu prevention centre, insisted that the use of a vaccine was merely one tool in the government’s armoury of measures to bring the virus under control.
Even with the introduction of a vaccine, the core strategy in controlling the disease would remain careful monitoring, he said, adding that a vaccine would only be used in the case of a severe outbreak of bird flu.
He also cautioned of the need for strict controls on the use of a vaccine among poultry stocks, and said that any vaccine must meet high standards of quality and effectiveness.
In the past the Ministry of Public Health always expressed opposition to the idea of vaccination, warning that it could induce a situation whereby poultry were infected with the virus without actually dying; thus, leading to the rapid spread of infection.
But Dr. Charal conceded that Thailand had already seen so many outbreaks of avian flu that the virus was now in the environment and had spread to ducks and birds, rather than simply being found in chickens.
The government will initially only endorse the use of vaccination among fighting cocks, traditional breeds of chickens and tropical birds.
Research cited by Dr. Charal suggests that a single dose of vaccine can prevent chickens from spreading the virus for a period of 45 days.
Research will be conducted on the production of an avian flu vaccine in Thailand, while further studies are likely to be conducted in the country's northern Phitsauulok Province and the central Suphanburi Province on the use of vaccines among Thai poultry.
Within another two months, the government expects to be able to reach a conclusion on whether or not to import the vaccine, and what quality control measures should be put in place.
“There are currently several countries producing bird flu vaccines, including the Netherlands and China”, Dr. Charal noted, adding that research from China suggested that the use of vaccination did not cause a mutation of the virus.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stressed today that it would have to approve any imported vaccines before they could be used.