WOAH issues policy paper on avian influenza vaccination and trade

Vaccination should not be a barrier to trade, WOAH said
calendar icon 29 December 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Vaccination is compatible with the pursuit of safe trade in poultry and poultry products, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) said in a recent policy paper

In accordance with WOAH international standards, the use of vaccination does not affect the status of a country or zone as being HPAI-free if surveillance supports the absence of infection. Trade in poultry and poultry products can be conducted safely alongside vaccination, WOAH said. 

To date, despite the global crisis, vaccination has been used only in a limited number of countries as a preventive, emergency or systematic measure to protect poultry or other captive bird populations from HPAI. Concerns about international trade restrictions hamper its use, although the inclusion of vaccination as a control tool has been endorsed by international standards adopted by the World Assembly of WOAH national Delegates.

Unjustified trade restrictions on poultry and poultry products from vaccinated flocks have a huge impact on a sector that contributes significantly to global food security and the economy. In fact, poultry meat exports account for 11% of total production, while egg exports account for 3% of production. 

Maintaining international trade while ensuring the safety of these exchanges can be guaranteed in two ways, according to WOAH. Countries that vaccinate will need to provide appropriate certification to their trading partners to ensure that their measures comply with WOAH science-based international standards. They must also demonstrate their plans to carry out necessary surveillance of circulating strains once vaccination is in place, and their capacity to prove the absence of virus circulation.

Alongside that, importing countries will need to make risk-based decisions and implement science-informed measures that allow for safe trade while preventing the spread of avian influenza. This is critical to avoid the closure of trade borders and the subsequent economic consequences for the poultry industry, farmers and consumers.

In its paper, WOAH outlined policy recommendations for the use of avian influenza vaccinations. The decision to vaccinate poultry must be part of a broader avian influenza control strategy with an exit plan. It must also be accompanied by a solid monitoring and surveillance system for domestic and wild bird populations to guide the selection of appropriate vaccine strains.

The decision should also be based on the availability of sufficient financial, technical and human resources for disease surveillance and the maintenance of effective vaccination campaigns, and combined with the enforcement of relevant regulations, including licensing, quality control, and safety standards for vaccines.

Further recommendations can be found in the policy paper. 

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