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FG says ‘No Vaccination’ Policy against Avian Influenza still stands

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The Federal Government has said that the no vaccination policy for the control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in the country still stands.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, stated this at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.

Abubakar described the situation of poultry farmers as crucial,  based on the recurrence of the disease that had depleted the population of birds and sunk down huge investments.

He said that HPAl also known as “bird flu” in Nigeria, has been depleting the poultry population of the country, with severe negative economic consequences on the livelihood of Nigeria poultry farmers.

Abubakar said  that following the resurgence of HPAI in 2014, poultry farmers and other stakeholders, who desperately wished to stop the cycle of the disease called for a reconsideration of the ‘ No Vaccination Policy’.

He said that because the calls have resurfaced again for the same reasons, the ministry in its commitment set up a ministerial committee to fashion out a solution.

“The committee which was inaugurated by my Permanent Secretary, Dr Ernest Umakhihe, on my behalf on Jan. 24 met for two days in Nasarawa State.

” After due consideration of scientific and socio-economic evidences available to the committee on merits and demerits of vaccination on  no vaccination, the committee recommends that the country should stick to the ‘No Vaccination’ policy for now.

“Though the committee noted that the country might want to change her policy to vaccinate against HPAI in future.

“It recommends some activities to be carried out before considering the option of vaccination against HPAI as a policy for the country,” he said.

Abubakar said these activities included updating the identification and characterisation of circulating HPAI virus strains in Nigeria, updating prevalence and associated risk factors among others in the country.

” The status-quo on vaccination policy against HPAI in Nigeria thus remains and as such, ‘No vaccination’ against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Nigeria,”

The minister, however, said that the ministry is committed to the control and possible eradication of avian influenza in Nigeria.

Abubakar called on development partners, individuals and organisations to support government’s course to fight the disease that is devastating the poultry industry and livelihood of farmers.

In a remark, the Director, Veterinary and Pest Control Service, Dr Columba Vakura, called for collaboration among stakeholders along the value chain as the disease is highly mobile.

He also said there should be full compliance of hygiene measures along the poultry value chain to reduce chances of the disease occurring.

Vakura cautioned poultry farmers against vaccines coming into the country as they could be dangerous to the birds they are made for.

He said that the process of vaccination was cumbersome, because  it would involve more than one vaccine  to make sure the birds are protected.

Vakura said that the disease could be controlled without vaccination, adding that the ministry’s surveillance system must be vibrant and up to the task in containing the disease.(NAN)

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