The US Department of Agriculture is looking into vaccines as an option to protect poultry against deadly bird flu, the agency’s chief veterinary officer said as the country faces its worst outbreak since 2015.
Supporters said vaccines could help keep poultry alive, prevent financial losses and control food costs, though shots would be too late to stop the current outbreak that has wiped out 22 million chickens and turkeys in commercial flocks since February.
Reuters reported that the United States has avoided vaccines, worried that importers will ban US poultry shipments because they cannot distinguish infected birds from vaccinated ones. The United States is the world’s second-largest poultry meat exporter a major egg producer, with shipments reaching $4.2 billion (£3.2bn) in 2020.
However, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is investigating the potential for a vaccine that could be distinguished from the wild type of virus spread to poultry, chief veterinary officer Rosemary Sifford said.
“We feel strongly that if we could develop a vaccine like that, that would have less of a trade impact,” Ms Sifford said.
Researchers estimate that would take at least nine months to develop, she said.