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.
Financial support for injectable badger vaccination
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 offers long term financial and other support to privately led vaccination campaigns in the Edge Area:
- How to apply for funding from the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS)
- How to prepare for a badger vaccination campaign
- General information about the scheme
For more information on the government’s support for badger vaccination or to discuss potential applications, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Badger Vaccination Fund
The Badger Vaccination Fund (BVF) was launched in 2012 to support staff and volunteers from voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations who undertake vaccination training; and trained VCS lay vaccinators working in the field. The Badger Vaccination Fund will be replaced by the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme.
Information Note number 03/14 explains that the BVF will run for a further and final year in 2014, concurrently with the first year of BEVS, to give people time to prepare for support from BEVS. A project supported by the BVF will be able to apply for any additional support from BEVS.
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
More information and guidance about our research into vaccines is available:
- Defra’s bovine TB research programme including work on the development of vaccines to combat bovine TB.
- Work by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency