20 December, 2013, Rome – Research on vaccination against Avian Influenza has several needs, including the evaluation of the potential benefits of vaccination at hatchery level for the prevention and control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted a facilitated discussion in Beijing on 3 December 2013 on existing findings regarding the assessment of the added value of hatchery vaccination. Participants included virologists, field experts involved in the control of HPAI, economic experts and scientists from the laboratory division, along with experts from FAO headquarters, the Asia and the Pacific regional office of Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) and the ECTAD office in China.
Unlike classical inactivated vaccines, hatchery vaccines can be mechanically applied to day-old chicks. This approach has already been applied for a few other poultry diseases. The advantages of hatchery vaccination are that: (i) poultry is more easily vaccinated at hatchery than farm level allowing to reach close to 100 percent vaccination in a flock; (ii) it limits the potential spread of the disease because it avoids the presence of vaccinators on farms; (iii) it eliminates the stress of traditional vaccination methods when people handle adult birds; (iv) there is the potential for an earlier onset of immunity in the birds; (v) there may be no need for a booster vaccination in broilers, and only one booster instead of four in layers, although more trials are needed to confirm this; and (vi) a high level of overall coverage in poultry population is more easily reachable.
Participants at the Beijing meeting aimed to create a common understanding of Avian Influenza hatchery vaccination, share findings and discuss the added value, challenges and concerns related to hatchery vaccination. FAO's ongoing project in Egypt, a country where a hatchery vaccine has already been registered and applied in a few poultry production companies, served to illustrate the situation. A costing study comparing hatchery vaccination with conventional vaccination (including the cost of labour, of the vaccine and of the equipment required) was discussed.
The information gathered at the meeting confirmed that there are some real advantages to using hatchery vaccination. Many trials have already been conducted with the three existing vector recombinant vaccines that can be applied to day-old chicks. However the need for additional and more coordinated trials was expressed to be able to draw solid conclusions on how these vaccines would perform in the context of a field application. FAO will continue to support hatchery vaccination trials in broilers and in layers in Egypt. Furthermore, participants agreed that there is a great need for hatchery vaccines in ducklings, especially for South-East Asian countries.
Lastly one of the main aspects emphasized at the FAO meeting was the importance of conducting good post-vaccination monitoring in Egypt and Bangladesh where a hatchery vaccine is being used on a large scale and to share the results with other countries that are considering the registration of this vaccine. FAO's main roles within the assessment of the added value of hatchery vaccination are to facilitate compilation and independent evaluation of vaccination results as well as foster collaboration between the different stakeholders.