Footrot Vaccine and Red Tape

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

I’ll start with a brief welcome to the WoolProducers blog!

In the 9 months since I’ve been with WoolProducers, it’s become apparent that we do a lot on behalf of Australian wool growers. The problem is that we aren’t great at telling people about it!

We’re hoping that this blog will give readers some valuable insights into the daily work that we undertake on behalf of Australian wool growers. If a blog post triggers your interest, or you’d like to know more, please feel free to reach out to Ed, Jo, myself or any of our board members.

Now, onto the headline! An issue that has been fueling my frustration since commencing with WoolProducers relates to grower access (or lack thereof) to the “custom” footrot vaccine. In response to market need, AWI partnered with the University of Sydney to invest a total $1.5 million, comprising of compulsory grower levies (your money) and government matched funding into the development of the custom footrot vaccine.

The result of this investment was the development of a highly effective and safe vaccine that could be customised based on the specific strain(s) of footrot present on a particular property. Subsequent research undertaken by AWI (which can be read about here) has identified where this product can best be used as part of a vaccination strategy in a footrot control program.

Unfortunately, due to government red tape and the removal of the Emergency Use Permit at the end of 2020, Australian sheep farmers are no longer able to access the safe and highly effective custom footrot vaccine that was developed using wool grower levies.

The market forces that drove the development of the custom vaccine included the removal from the market of the mainstream commercial vaccine due to biosecurity concerns (associated with an ingredient of bovine origin and BSE risk) and the desire to have a vaccine that was provided a higher level of/ longer period of protection.

Footrot in Australia can be classed into 10 different strains (serotypes). The mainstream/commercial vaccine is “multivalent” and targets 9 of the 10 strains, whereas the “custom” vaccine targets just one or two of the strains (identified through on-farm testing). Because the custom vaccine targets just one or two strains, the animals has a more focused immune response, resulting in a higher concentration of (strain specific) antibodies for a longer period of time.