The ongoing vaccination drive for milch cattle against the fatal Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) under the Centre’s National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) has come to sudden halt in Punjab after the samples of the vaccine supplied by the Hyderabad-based firm failed the quality test. In a written communication, the Centre has asked the Punjab’s animal husbandry department to stop the vaccination drive immediately. However, the work of ear tagging the animals would continue.
With the vaccination drive coming to a halt, the dairy farmers in Punjab have been left worried as they fear an outbreak of the fatal disease, which is also highly contagious.
Even before the orders were issued to the districts to stop the vaccination drive Tuesday, the work was going on at snail’s pace due to extreme shortage of field staff in Punjab’s Animal Husbandry Department, said an officer requesting anonymity. The drive had started from October 1 and till November 24, just around 10 lakh of the total 65 lakh animals (cows and buffaloes) were vaccinated.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kripa Shankar Saroj, Additional Chief Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries, confirmed that that vaccination drive has been stopped. “The central government had supplied us the vaccines after purchasing them from a Hyderabad-based firm M/S Biovet Pvt Ltd. Those samples have failed quality tests and the Centre has asked us to stop the vaccination drive midway. Close to 10 lakh animals that have already been vaccinated in Punjab won’t suffer any harm, nor have they shown any side effects. The vaccine, however, isn’t as effective as it should be and animals vaccinated aren’t 100 per cent immune to the FMD. We had to vaccinate 65 lakh animals in Punjab,” said the officer.
He added that Punjab is one of the states selected by the Centre where NADCP is being run with an aim to eliminate the FMD by 2025.
The letter written by the joint secretary, Union Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairying, to the Punjab government on November 23 (Copy with The Indian Express) reads, “…From the results of the quality control test for the samples of FMD vaccine received from the Head, Division of Biological Standardization, ICAR-IVRI, it is found that 02 batches of FMD vaccine supplied by M/S Biovet Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad, did not comply with the quality parameters stipulated in the tender for procurement. M/S Biovet has communicated that they would recall all their FMD vaccine batches supplied to all the states/UTs… Kindly withhold vaccination till such time and vaccinate only after replacement with new batches”.
Apart from Punjab, the other states/UTs which have been asked to stop the vaccination immediately are Assam, Rajasthan, Daman & Diu, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir.
Subsequently, as per the orders issued by the director animal husbandry, Punjab, the district vet officers have been directed to stop FMD vaccination immediately but to continue the work of ear tagging the animals and enter the data on the Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) portal.
Additional Chief Secretary Saroj said, “Ear tagging is also being done under NADCP to provide a unique identity to each animal and record its data. A total of 9.90 lakh animals have been ear tagged in Punjab till now. The work to ear tag the animals will continue. The work was slow due to shortage of field staff.”
Daljit Singh Sadarpura, president of Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA), Punjab’s largest dairy farmers association, said that an FMD outbreak can wreak havoc. “Animals have to be vaccinated twice a year for FMD and the government does it free of cost. However, we haven’t been able to eliminate the disease completely because there are multiple issues on the ground in implementing the vaccination drive successfully. Punjab’s animal husbandry department faces acute shortage of staff. Both the central and the state governments should resume the vaccination drive immediately after getting effective vaccines because if there is an outbreak in Punjab, each farmer can lose upto 20-25 per cent of his animals,” he said.
What is FMD? Why are dairy farmers scared of it?
According to an advisory by the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), the Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious virus disease, characterized by blister-like lesions on the tongue, nose and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the toes which then burst, leaving painful ulcers. The blisters cause a heavy flow of sticky, foamy saliva that hangs from the mouth. Infected animals sway from one foot to the other due to the tenderness of the feet. Although older cattle usually do not die from the disease, they suffer a severe illness which leaves them in a weakened state. They have high fevers, stop eating, give less milk and become lame.
Dr Prakash Singh Brar, director extension education, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) says, “It is an airborne disease, which leads to blisters on animal’s feet and mouth. It attacks the immunity system of animals and leads to severe decline in milk production as animals stop consuming food. Fatality rate in adult animals is still less due to FMD but it proves fatal for younger animals.” He added that depending on air velocity and humidity, the virus can travel far and wide. It also spreads through direct contact with affected animals.
Dairy farmers fear FMD as it lands a double blow — low milk production and death of animals, both leading to huge economic losses.
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