New BTV-3 vaccines authorised in Europe 

Two vaccines are now available for BTV-3, which first emerged late last year, and have been granted emergency authorisation in two countries.

sheep in a field
Image: Jakob Cotton/Unsplash.

A BTV-3 vaccine produced by Spanish pharmaceutical company, Syva, has been authorised for use in The Netherlands and Belgium.

Another, made by Boehringer Ingelheim, has been approved in The Netherlands.

Syva vaccine approved in two countries

Syva’s vaccine has been tested for safe use in female sheep, and it’s been assumed that it will also be safe for use in cattle. 

Following the approval, a total of two million doses will be available to Dutch farmers by the end of April.  

Sheep will require one dose, and cattle two doses administered three weeks apart.

Livestock will be protected approximately 28 days after vaccination, but the duration of immunity is yet to be confirmed. 

The Netherlands has around 1 million sheep and 4 million cattle, so the doses will not be enough to cover all animals, but more doses are expected to be available over the coming months, plus other vaccines which may gain market approval. 

Bultavo 3 reduces transmission

Meanwhile, Boehringer’s vaccine, Bultavo 3, protects cattle and sheep against clinical signs and mortality. 

It is an inactivated vaccine which is injected subcutaneously in sheep and intramuscularly in cattle. For initial protection, one shot is needed in sheep, while in cattle, two shots are required (spaced three weeks apart).  

The vaccine also significantly reduces the risk of disease transmission, Boehringer says. It will be available from the end of May.  

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Hope for UK farmers

NFU Livestock Board chair David Barton said the news will give hope to UK farmers – though the UK government has yet to authorise a BTV-3 vaccine. 

“It’s good to hear that a vaccine for BTV-3 has been authorised for use in the Netherlands and we anticipate it being available for use in the UK once authorised,” he said.  

“This disease has had a devastating impact in the Netherlands and UK livestock farmers will be anxious to protect their livestock as the weather gets warmer. 

“As this is very new vaccine, there are still questions to be answered – not least about the cost of the vaccine, how it will be rolled out, and what support the government can offer to get it deployed quickly and efficiently.” 

BTV-3 impact

The Netherlands suffered more than 6,000 cases of BTV-3 in 2023, and lost around 5% of its sheep population.

Although mortality rates are lower in cattle, it is estimated that 0.2% of the Dutch cattle population died from infection. 

Meanwhile, England confirmed 126 cases of bluetongue since the new strain arrived late last year, on 73 premises in four counties. There were 119 cases in cattle and seven in sheep.

BTV-3 was found in Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.

As well as deaths, the disease causes problems with swallowing, lameness and stiffness with swollen legs – affecting milk yields and animal welfare. 

Dutch authorities have predicted a large-scale clinical BTV outbreak at the end of June or the beginning of July. 

The UK’s chief vets have also predicted a rise in cases this summer as midge activity peaks.

For advice on bluetongue visit the Ruminant Health and Welfare Group’s dedicated page.

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