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Brussels, 21 February 2006

Avian Influenza: France and Netherlands present vaccination plans for poultry

French and Dutch plans to carry out targeted preventive vaccination campaigns on certain poultry, as a precautionary measure against highly pathogenic avian influenza, have been presented to Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) today. The presentations were followed by positive discussions in the Committee on the technical and scientific details of the plans, as these are the first such vaccination programmes against the H5N1 virus to be proposed in the EU. On the basis of today’s discussions, the Commission will now consider proposals to approve the plans and to lay down specific conditions that must be met in applying them. The discussions will continue in the Committee tomorrow morning.

The Dutch plan entails vaccinating hobby poultry and free-range laying hens throughout the whole country. The vaccination will be provided on a voluntary basis, as an alternative to the requirement that these birds be kept indoors.

The French plan foresees the vaccination of ducks and geese in the departments of Landes, Loire-Atlantique and Vendée, which are considered to be areas at high risk of avian influenza. The intention is to begin vaccination immediately and continue until April 1 2006, during which time around 900 000 birds are expected to be immunised. Both Member States outlined the monitoring and control measures that would be followed with regard to the vaccinated birds. These include the use of sentinel birds (i.e. unvaccinated control birds) to monitor for an avian influenza outbreak in the vaccinated flock, regular testing of the vaccinated and sentinel birds, and the continued application of bio-security provisions already in place.

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