The Wildlife Trusts believe that measures to address the disease in cattle should be at the centre of efforts to tackle bovine tuberculosis (TB), alongside a strategic programme of badger vaccination, not badger culling.
*2016 update: There is currently an ongoing global shortage of the BCG vaccine, which protects badgers against bovine TB but is also used in the human TB vaccine. The World Health Organisation has advised countries to limit the use of the vaccine to those individuals who need it most, which has resulted in a suspension of badger vaccination projects in Wales and England.*
In the longer term, cattle vaccination will have a vital role to play but it is not yet available - and its development and licensing could take another ten years.
For the past few years a vaccine for badgers has been available and has the potential to help reduce bTB without the negative impacts of perturbation arising from a badger cull. However a global BCG vaccine shortage means that our badger vaccination projects are currently on hold until the vaccine becomes available again for use in the UK.
Fourteen Wildlife Trusts have been carrying out badger vaccination programmes since 2011. Vaccination of badgers could help to reduce the spread of bovine TB. Recent studies have shown that vaccinating more than a third of adult badgers in a social group can reduce the risk to unvaccinated cubs by 79%.
Our badger vaccination programmes
Wildlife Trusts have been running badger vaccination programmes up and down the UK:
- South and West Wales
- Hampshire & Isle of Wight
- Leicestershire and Rutland
- Berks, Bucks and Oxon
The Wildlife Trusts vaccination programmes - summary of delivery
Summary of delivery for the 2014 vaccination season
No. vaccinating Trusts: 11
Area covered: 3,140 ha (31.4km2)
No. doses vaccine delivered: 317
No. lay vaccinators trained: 9
2014 total expenditure: £92,806
Training and certification: £6,992
Cost per dose: £293
Cost per km2: £2,956
Summary of delivery for the period 2011 - 14
Total area: 3,140 ha (31.4 km2)
No. doses vaccine delivered: 629
No. lay vaccinators trained: 40
Total expenditure: £211,597
Training and certification: £29,730
Cost per dose: £336
Summary of delivery for the period 2011 - 13 (as covered in the vaccination progress report)
No. vaccinating Trusts: 9
Total no. vaccination seasons completed: 17
Total area covered: 1,900 ha (19km2)
No. doses vaccine delivered: 312
No. lay vaccinators trained: 31
2011-13 total expenditure: £118,791
Training and certification: £22,738
Cost per dose: £380
Cost per km2: £6,252
The Wildlife Trusts have run badger vaccination projects to help tackle bovine TB since 2011
N.B. The average values for cost per dose, and per km2, should be used with caution. Cost of delivery is variable and depends on the size, nature and accessibility of the sites involved. First year costs are generally much higher than ongoing costs due to training, certification and capital equipment requirements. Vaccination across large areas of land or adjoining land units will reduce delivery costs if equipment and resources can be shared, and is expected to provide greater disease control benefits within badger populations.
It is difficult to verify that more than 70% of the target badger populations are being vaccinated each year but we are generally confident that this is being achieved, based on the number of badgers caught and recaptured, the number of setts and the level of badger activity. In some cases, where trail cameras are deployed in advance of vaccination, we can be more certain that we have at least caught and vaccinated all badgers recorded.
How does this compare with the Welsh badger vaccination programme?
In May 2012, the Welsh Government embarked on a five-year programme of badger vaccination within a 288 km2 'Intensive Action Area'. Figures from the 2014 season show that 1,316 badgers were trapped and vaccinated over an area of 260 km2, at a cost of £929,540. This equates to £706 per badger, or £3,575 per km2.