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Fowl raisers oppose bird flu vaccine plan


PIYAPORN WONGRUANG - Representatives of chicken raisers yesterday asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to drop its plan to use the anti-bird flu vaccine in fowl for fear this would harm both human health and the broiler, or young chicken, industry.

Nathsak Pattanakulchai, vice-president of the Broiler Raisers for Exporting Association, submitted the request to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thira Sutabutra through his secretary. Mr Nathsak said vaccinating poultry was not a practical means to curb the virus, which can mutate, and at one point there would be no effective vaccine to deal with it.

The vaccine could also speed up virus mutations and trigger a human pandemic, he said. The vaccination of chickens and ducks would also hurt the poultry trade, which had only recently picked up and is valued at 40 billion baht a year, he said. He said the nation has won recognition from the international community for refraining from the use of the vaccine. ''We can assume that our control measures against the disease are already good enough. So I can't see why we should go for a vaccine,'' said Mr Nathasak.

The idea of introducing the use of a bird flu vaccine was floated by the ministry last week. Experts from both the state and private sectors plan to hold a meeting this week to discuss the pros and cons of using the vaccine, and the results of the meeting will be forwarded to the cabinet for consideration. If approved, this would be a U-turn in the country's bird flu control policy, which had banned the use of the vaccine ever since the virus first emerged in early 2004. The use of vaccine in fowl has been fiercely debated as poultry raisers and experts are divided over the issue.

Traditional fowl raisers, including those who raise free range ducks, favour the vaccine, claiming it would help prevent their poultry from dying of avian flu. But most virologists from leading academic institutions said the vaccine would speed up virus mutations to a point that triggers a pandemic.