The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar has suggested that a “No Vaccination” policy could be more effective than using vaccines to control the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly known as ‘Bird Flu’.
During a ministerial press briefing held in Abuja, Abubakar urged development partners to implement improved basic hygiene management practices, emphasising that it would be a more efficient and cost-effective approach to controlling the disease. He added that adopting this policy could help save the country the funds that would otherwise be spent on importing vaccines.
The minister noted that the ongoing outbreaks of HPAI have been devastating for the poultry population, with severe economic consequences on the livelihood of poultry farmers. He explained that the ministry had set up a ministerial committee of experts from research institutions, academia, public and private sectors and international partners to look into what the sub-sector was doing right in the past to prevent or contain the disease.
The minister revealed that after due consideration of scientific and socio-economic evidence, as well as global best practices and recommendations from the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the committee recommended that the country stick to the “No Vaccination” policy for now. However, certain activities needed to be carried out before considering vaccination against HPAI as a policy for the country, including updating the identification and characterisation of circulating HPAI virus strains, risk assessment and analysis and ascertaining the efficacy of the vaccines.
The director of veterinary and pest control services, WOAH, Dr. Columba Vakuru stressed that poultry farming was a vibrant sector with huge potential and that basic measures and regulations in the poultry industry must be complied with and the need to identify with directors of veterinary services at the state level emphasised.
He also reiterated Nigeria’s potential to produce vaccines, a statement signed by the ministry’s director of information, Anthonia Eremah said.
The minister called on poultry farmers to embrace basic hygiene in their business and practice good hygiene measures. He emphasised that it was a waste of funds to import vaccines when the disease could be controlled if managed hygienically.
He further called for a “No Vaccination” policy, which has been met with mixed reactions, with some stakeholders calling for vaccination against the disease. However, the ministry’s recommendation for a thorough review and analysis of the situation before considering vaccination has been commended by experts.