Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hong Kong: New jab set to fight bird flu

Mary Ann Benitez and Candy Chan
Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hong Kong will switch to a mainland- developed vaccine to protect local farm chickens against a mutated H5N1 bird flu, the health minister said. Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing- man announced that 10 million doses of the new Re-6 vaccine will be made available from October to target the prevailing H5N1 clade avian influenza that is commonly found in the region. Local poultry farms produce 1.3 million chickens during each of the three breeding seasons in a year. Each bird will receive two shots when they are 10 and 50 days old, before being sold to the market in three months' time. The vaccine, developed by the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, has been used in the mainland since June, and replaces the older Re-5 jab, Ko said. "We are discussing arrangements with mainland authorities to supply the vaccine to Hong Kong," Ko said yesterday. University of Hong Kong microbiology professor Yuen Kwok-yung said that since 2003, all imported and local chickens were given the H5N2 vaccine from Intervet in the Netherlands. "It has since proved to be ineffective," he said. "The public can be reassured that once the birds, both in the mainland and Hong Kong, are inoculated with the new vaccine, our poultry and also our citizens will be fully protected." Thomas Sit Hon-chung, assistant director (inspection and quarantine) at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said: "The seed base of the new vaccine is made from the latest H5N1 virus isolated in China. This closely matches the viruses that are currently circulating." New Territories Chicken Breeders Association spokesman Lee Leung-kei said two local chicken farms have taken part in pretrials using the Re-6 vaccine. "Intervet's vaccine is losing its effectiveness in fighting H5N2, especially since some of the vaccinated birds that have been found dead recently were infected with this virus," Lee said. While the Intervet vaccine costs 40 HK cents per dose, the new mainland-produced vaccine is 30 HK cents.

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