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France is testing bird flu vaccination for EU

France has started a trial of vaccine against HPAI bird flu. If the trial is successful, the results will be presented to the European Union. Agriculture ministers will then have to decide whether the vaccination will be allowed. That can be next year at the earliest.

Under agricultural conditions, two tests will be performed on two groups of ducks on an experimental farm, using two different means. An experiment is first done with a small group of animals, and then with a large group.

Two vaccines will be tested: one produced by France's Ceva, the other by Boehringer Ingelheim. The study consists of collecting data on their ability to “protect waterfowl and limit the shedding and spread of the virus. The trial will be conducted under the supervision of veterinarians, the National Veterinary School of Toulouse and French authorities.

The trial will later be extended to a dozen farms, French ministry sources said. If the conclusions were favourable, vaccination would not be possible until 2023 until ieder case, they emphasized. At the same time, France announced that the confinement obligation and transport bans will be lifted 'due to favorable circumstances' in large parts of the country, except in the most affected western provinces.

The current EU rules prohibit the export of vaccinated poultry because of the risk that they may be carriers and carriers of the bird flu virus. In addition, in case of EU-wide vaccination, the EU countries must open negotiations with third countries to which birds and poultry are exported. 

Within the European Commission there are the various departments that deal with the Internal Market and Animal Health and that think differently about tackling bird flu. The Netherlands would like to vaccinate, so that the chickens do not have to be caged or culled if they are infected. The Dutch LNV minister Henk Staghouwer has urged this several times, as has the French minister Julien Denormandie.

The Netherlands has support from ten other countries to do something about the problems. It is difficult to predict exactly what the solution will be, because the European Commission has to come up with proposals. The Netherlands wants the criteria for free-range eggs in the poultry industry to be expanded. Now an egg may be called a run-out egg, if the chicken can also walk outside. But due to the cage rules due to bird flu, the chickens have to stay indoors and the eggs are therefore strictly speaking no longer a free-range egg.

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