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To vaccinate or not
Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesia, one of only three Asian countries, with China and Pakistan, to vaccinate against bird flu, says it chose to vaccinate its flocks instead of mass culling them because of cost. Java, with 80 percent of the country's livestock, is so crowded that a rigorous culling campaign would have wiped out virtually all the poultry on the island.

After losses totalling at least 9 million poultry in early 2004, the results of the vaccination programme are "very promising" with only a few bird flu cases reported in the early 2005 flu season, says Dr Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, Director of Animal Health for Indonesia. Vaccination is used together with selective culling, movement control and other measures.

The country plans to eradicate bird flu by 2007. Veterinarians got off to a flying start, vaccinating 114 million poultry in 2004.

"We understand from the OIE that to have a vaccination programme, you have to have rigorous surveillance of the results. That takes a lot of human resources and a big diagnostic programme to do the lab work," she says. "We need international assistance in those areas."

Choosing vaccination as a control strategy is not an easy decision. Vaccination campaigns require a large infrastructure that some countries may not be able to afford. Without using appropriate methods, it can be difficult to distinguish between infected and vaccinated poultry under current Asian conditions, making it difficult to monitor the whereabouts of disease

For countries that do vaccinate, an important research priority is the development of vaccines that are cheaper and more practical for use in the field.
FAO photo

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FAO/A. Ariadi

Vaccinating chickens against avian flu in Indonesia.

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