China cracks down on illegal vaccines in swine fever disaster
Illegal vaccines threaten to exact a heavy toll in conjunction with China’s continuing epidemic of African swine fever, which has killed (or forced authorities to preemptively cull) hundreds of millions of pigs since it began spreading in spring 2019. Chinese food regulators and health authorities are cracking down on illegal vaccines used by some hog farmers, including “Homemade, experimental and imported” inoculations, according to Bloomberg, citing Yang Zhenhai, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in charge of animal husbandry.
- According to Yang, the illegal vaccines risk making the problem far worse, posing a severe biosafety hazard: “Farms that use these vaccines won’t be able to effectively prevent the disease and they could spread it further — something we take seriously.”
- Millions of pigs are believed to have been illegally vaccinated, with wide variation in the efficacy of the vaccines, making it even harder to control the epidemic.
- Farmers who use the illegal vaccines face fines of up 200,000 yuan, or $28,500. Meanwhile the ministry is offering cash rewards of 30,000 yuan to anyone who reports “irregular” vaccine use to an emergency hotline.
- Scientific institutes in China and elsewhere are testing legitimate vaccines for African swine fever, but these are not yet ready for deployment.
- In an ominous turn of events, swine fever recently emerged in Poland — one of China’s main overseas suppliers of pork. The virus was found in around 20 wild boar close to the Polish frontier with Germany, raising the possibility that the epidemic will spread even further.
- Overall Raboank estimates that more than 200 million pigs have died of swine fever or been killed in China since the epidemic began.