Home News General East Coast fever vaccine registered in Tanzania

The registration for the first time in Tanzania of East Coast fever (ECF) vaccine, a tick transmitted disease which kills a million cattle every year and devastates the livelihood of those who depend on livestock for survival, is being marked by a major event in Arusha, Northern Tanzania, today (May 20.)

The event is being attended by representatives from governments, GALVmed (Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines), regulators, producers, scientists, veterinarians, Intellectual Property experts, distributors and delivery agents. All are links in the chain needed to ensure safe, effective and sustainable supplies of the vaccine are accessible and affordable to millions of livestock keepers and their families. Livestock keepers themselves will be present at the event.

Registration of the ECF vaccine is central to safety and efficacy and to securing the sustainability of supply through commercialisation. GALVmed, a not for profit organisation whose mission is to save human life by protecting livestock, is fostering innovative commercial means to achieve this through the registration, commercial distribution and delivery of the vaccine, backed by $28USD million from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sustainability is at the core of GALVmed’s approach and it is working with partners in the developing world to bring public and private sector partners together not only to ensure that the vaccine is available to those who need it most, but also to scale up its production for the future.

Steve Sloan, GALVmed’s Chief Executive, commented: “Livestock keepers know the devastation that East Coast fever brings, killing valuable cattle, affecting livelihoods and threatening the very future of the pastoral way of life. This vaccine has already proved a huge success in Tanzania, due to the enabling environment there and the excellent interactions among government, distributors, veterinarians and livestock keepers themselves.

“This pioneering registration aims to ensure that the vaccine is approved and monitored by affected nations and enables local firms to sell and distribute it, so embedding its sustainability. Registration in Tanzania and Kenya is already complete, with significant progress in Uganda. GALVmed and its partners are committed to making this vaccine accessible to poor people – protecting livestock, saving human life.”

An experimental vaccine against ECF was first developed more than 30 years ago and major funding from DFID and others enabled work to produce the vaccine on a larger scale. When stocks from 1990s ran low, the Africa Union/Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources and chief veterinary officers in affected countries asked the International Livestock Research Institute to produce more and a million doses of vaccine were made to fill this gap. However, the full potential for livestock keepers to benefit from the vaccine has never been achieved and the creation of longer term solutions for the sustainable production, distribution and delivery of the vaccine is essential to that realisation.

Previously, management of ECF was carried out using acaracide dips and sprays but these have drawbacks. Ticks develop resistance to them and there are health and safety concerns and environmental pollution. Dipping facilities often do not work in remote areas.

The new, effective ECF vaccine uses the ‘infection-and-treatment method’, so-called because animals are infected with whole parasites while being treated with antibiotics to stop development of disease. Animals only need to be immunised once in their life and calves, which are particularly susceptible, can be immunised just one month after birth.

In recent years, the field logistics involved in mass vaccinations of cattle with the infection-and-treatment method have been greatly improved, owing largely to the work of a private company called VetAgro Tanzania Ltd. working with Maasai cattle herders in northern Tanzania. More than 500,000 animals have been vaccinated against ECF in Tanzania since 1998 and more than 95% of these took place in the pastoral sector, resulting in reduction in calf mortality in herds excess of 95%. In the smallholder dairy sector, vaccination reduced the incidence of ECF by 98%. The majority of smallholder dairy farmers cut acaracide use by more than three quarters with a subsequent reduction in costs to livestock keepers and less environmental pollution.


What is East Coast fever?
East Coast fever kills one cow every 30 seconds, putting the lives of more than 25 million cattle at risk in the 11 countries where the disease is now endemic. It endangers a further 10 million animals in regions such as southern Sudan, where it has been spreading at a rate of more than 30 kilometres a year. ECF devastates indigenous cattle, but is an even greater threat to improved cattle breeds and is therefore limiting livestock development, particularly affecting smallholder dairy production. The vaccine could save the affected countries at least £175 million a year. ECF is caused by Theleria parva (an intracellular protozoan parasite). It is transmitted by the brown ear tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. It kills and makes cattle sick, inducing high fever & lympho-proliferative syndrome.

East Coast fever was first recognised in southern Africa when it was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century with cattle imported from eastern Africa where the disease had been endemic for centuries. It caused dramatic losses with high cattle mortality. It has persisted in 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The disease devastates the livelihoods of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers and smallholder and emerging dairy producers, as well as pastoral livestock herders, such as the Maasai in East Africa.

The infection-and-treatment immunisation method against East Coast fever was developed by research conducted over three decades by the East African Community, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) at Muguga, Kenya (www.kari.org) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya (www.ilri.org). This long-term research was funded by DFID (www.dfid.gov.uk) and other donors of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (www.cgiar.org) The first bulk batch of the vaccine, produced by ILRI 15 years ago, has protected one million animals, whose survival raised the standard of living for livestock keepers and their families. Field trials of the new vaccine batch, also produced at ILRI, were completed in accordance with international standards to ensure that it is safe and effective.

How is the vaccine stored and administered?
The ECF straws are stored in liquid nitrogen until used and the final preparation is done either in the office or the field. It is important that the reconstituted vaccine is used within six hours and any doses left over are discarded. Vaccination is carried out by trained veterinary personnel, but always in collaboration with livestock keepers. Only healthy animals are presented for vaccination. The correct procedure is as follows: the animal is weighed. The correct dosage of 30% Oxytetracycline antibiotic is injected into the muscle of the animal. The ECF vaccine is injected into the skin in front of the ear. Every animal vaccinated is given an ECF eartag (the presence of this increases the value the animal gets at market.) Young calves are given a treatment to avoid worms interfering with the immunisation process. Case studies illustrating the impact of the infection-and-treatment vaccine on people’s lives are available on the GALVmed website at: www.galvmed.org/path-to-progress

About GALVmed: protecting livestock, improving human lives
Nearly 700 million people rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Money raised through livestock and animal products pays for education and healthcare. Animals supply manure and traction to support crop production, create employment and provide business opportunities. The loss of animals through disease devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities around the world. Working collaboratively with a broad spectrum of organisations, GALVmed is making livestock vaccines, diagnostics and medicines accessible and affordable to the millions for whom livestock is a lifeline. GALVmed’s role is to provide facilitation and leadership to overcome challenges and ‘weak links’ in the chain from product development to delivery into the animal. GALVmed is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID.

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East Coast fever briefing for journalists