SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean health authorities have set out plans for a bird flu emergency response system that will include an antigen bank and emergency vaccine supplies.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced the plans on Thursday, after a safety investigation task force launched by the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency found vulnerabilities in emergency response measures.
After concluding that regular vaccinations could raise the risk of human infection with the avian influenza virus, the task force decided to create an antigen bank that could be of use in emergency situations.
The antigen bank will focus on securing five types of H5 viruses often found in neighboring countries, with each host capable of generating vaccines for 5 million animals twice a day.
The 2.5 billion won animal health project will hold vaccines to an international standard, which requires an efficacy rate of greater than 80 percent.
The vaccines will be distributed when the agriculture minister and health authorities determine that conventional bird flu control methods such as culling or restriction of movement are no longer effective.
High-risk areas with vaccine targets will be identified after a number of factors are considered, including the scale of the farm, breed, density, virus types, and environmental and geographical backgrounds.
Birds with higher genetic values will be prioritized, such as those with pure blood lines and those that specialize in breeding, while those raised for human consumption are less likely to receive the vaccines.
Innoculation will end when no virus is detected a minimum of 42 days after preventive measures are taken at the last farm to be infected with a bird flu virus.
The move comes on the heels of a series of avian influenza outbreaks that swept across South Korea this year, resulting in the culling of more than 200,000 birds.
Against this backdrop, calls for avian influenza vaccines grew steadily among farmers and animal rights groups.
“We will secure more antigens and continue our efforts to advance avian influenza vaccination technology, in order to defend more birds against possible bird flu outbreaks involving new types of viruses,” the agriculture ministry said.