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Badger vaccination

Vaccinating badgers could play a role in the way we control bovine TB. It could do this by helping to reduce the spread of bovine TB in badger populations.

A vaccine would not, however, guarantee that all vaccinated animals are fully protected, and some may still contract the disease.

Injectable badger vaccine

BadgerBCG is an injectable vaccine that has been available on prescription since March 2010.

Studies have demonstrated that vaccination of badgers with BCG can significantly reduce the progression, severity and excretion of Mycobacterium bovis (the cause of bovine TB). For example, we have published reports on the safety of BCG vaccine in captive badgers and the effectiveness and safety of BCG vaccine in captive badgers.

We conducted a field study over 4 years in a naturally infected population of over 800 wild badgers in Gloucestershire. This found that vaccination resulted in a 74% reduction in the proportion of wild badgers testing positive to the blood test for TB. While these results indicate a clear effect of vaccination on badgers, these tests on their own can’t tell us how well BadgerBCG vaccine works.

BadgerBCG has been used in a government-funded project in Gloucestershire and by others such as the National Trust and local Wildlife Trusts.

Badger vaccination and cage trapping training courses are provided by APHA.

Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme

The government’s bovine TB strategy for England published in April 2014 announced new support for privately-led vaccination initiatives in the “Edge Area” of England. This aims to create vaccinated badger populations in uninfected areas.

Launched in September 2014, the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) offers long term financial and other support to privately led vaccination campaigns in the Edge Area.

Applications to BEVS closed on 27 February 2015. Decisions on Grant awards have now been taken and offers made to campaigns starting in 2015.

The offer of support to successful applicants includes free training, free loan of cage traps, free supply of vaccine and match funding for the remaining costs of running a successful vaccination campaign.

All grant offers are compliant with Article 26 of Commission Regulation (EU) No. 702/2014 on State Aids which concerns aid for the costs of the prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases and plant pests and aid to make good the damage caused by animal diseases and plant pests.

For more information about BEVS please contact bevs@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Oral badger vaccine

An oral badger vaccine may be a more practical, cheaper option but is still at the research stage.

Work which is underway includes:

  • formulation and bait development
  • efficacy and safety studies
  • field deployment studies
  • preparing and submitting a licensing dossier for assessment by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Diagnostic tests for badgers

We’re working to develop practical, sensitive and specific diagnostic tests for badgers. This would allow us to better understand the scale of badger infection in terms of geographical area.

Such tests could mean that future interventions are targeted at individual badgers or setts, rather than the wider population. They could also help us judge how effective vaccination might be in a specific area.

Research is concentrating on:

  • non-invasive tests to identify infected badgers, including the development of non-invasive blood sampling devices
  • tests to identify setts and areas where infected badgers are resident, such as tests to detect bovine TB bacteria in environmental (soil, latrine) samples

Further information

More information and guidance about our research into vaccines is available: