World’s First Vaccine for Deadly African Swine Fever Approved for Commercial Use – Food Tank
The world’s first vaccine against African Swine Fever (ASF) is now approved for commercial use in Vietnam.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is a viral disease with a near 100 percent mortality rate that led to the deaths of over a quarter of all pigs in the world in 2018-2019. While it poses no risk to humans, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) considers ASF an enormous threat to animal welfare, food security, biodiversity, and socioeconomic security for farming communities around the world.
Governments, producers, and retailers have been awaiting this vaccine for many years. “The disease has never been circulating in so many countries and so many pigs ever in history,” Daniel Beltran Alcrudo, senior animal health specialist at FAO, tells Food Tank.
While the vaccine is currently only available to hog farmers in Vietnam, availability elsewhere is likely to follow, according to Manuel Borca and Donald Gladue. Borca and Gladue are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists who have been racing to develop their own vaccine candidate with Zoetis, an American pharmaceutical company.
“For other countries [besides Vietnam] it will depend on regulatory approval from each particular country,” Borca and Gladue tell Food Tank.
The vaccines approved in Vietnam include NAVET-ASFVAC, co-developed by Navetco Central Veterinary Medicine and scientists from the United States, and AVAC ASF LIVE developed by AVAC Vietnam JSC, the Vietnamese government said in a statement.
ASF is spread through contact with infected animals’ bodily fluid. It is highly contagious and highly resistant in many environments. The only way to stop this deadly disease during an outbreak is to kill all affected or exposed swine herds.
ASF emerged in sub-Saharan Africa after European colonists brought their own pigs to the continent 200-300 years ago, according to senior veterinary scientist Guillermo Risatti. The disease was first identified in Africa in the 1920s and has since spread around the world. In 2018-2019, over 25 percent of pigs globally died from the disease after ASF arrived in the Americas for the first time in 40 years and in Asia for the first time ever.
Since then, ASF has spread to dozens more countries across the world, most recently arriving in Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia for the first time in June 2023.
While African Swine Fever has still not reached the United States, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said last month there was likely to be interest in precautionary purchases of the vaccine in the U.S.
Jaime Ricardo Romero, a Food Safety Specialist from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) tells Food Tank that if the U.S. wants to continue to keep ASF out of the country, they should engage in open and productive international cooperation and “contain the disease at the source.”
“Increasing the capacity of other countries at greater risk is the best protection the USA and others can implement.”
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