The 90th Annual General Session of the World Assembly of Delegates of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) took place in Paris from 21-25 May 2023.
The central topic at this year’s session was Avian Influenza. Migratory birds carry H5N1 avian influenza from the Southern Hemisphere, where the virus is circulating in wild waterfowl, into many industrialized countries with big, commercial poultry industries. This causes issues and significant losses, particularly for production systems where birds are kept outdoors (free-range chicken, ducks, free-range turkeys). Vaccination against High Path Avian Influenza (H5N1), which was previously banned because the risk of masking the disease in infected and vaccinated birds and thus causing risk of infection to their human carers, was deemed too high. Spearheaded by the European Commission and supported by several European Central Veterinary Officers and the poultry industry, vaccination is now possible and can be applied in farms with good biosecurity and compartmentalization. Controversy arose, however, because countries in the southern hemisphere where biosecurity and compartmentalization are often weaker, fear the looming threat of trade bans.
National Delegates adopted new Resolutions and made commitments to strengthen the global control of avian influenza, and a dedicated Animal Health Forum was organised to explore risk management options for this disease, and to provide a space to discuss adapted strategies to its current evolving situation.
The discussion held at this conference will be closely monitored by GALVmed because the reversal of a strict former vaccination ban may help argue for legislative relaxations on other government-restricted diseases, such as FMD, CBPP, CCPP, PPR & SGP. GALVmed was represented by Carolin Schumacher (CEO), Nina Henning (the Team Lead of the AgResults Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Challenge Project), and Jef Hammond (the FMD Project’s technical expert). The team took the opportunity to learn the latest news on recent evolutions of the WOAH standards, and discussed with different stakeholders how to increase the use of vaccination to improve animal health in the Global South.
GALVmed colleagues – left to right: Nina Henning (FMD project Team Lead), Jef Hammond (FMD expert), and Carolin Schumacher (CEO)