To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate
Whether or not to vaccinate livestock against FMD and other non-endemic animal diseases is a controversial issue. Although vaccines exist for most serious livestock diseases, current U.S. government policy is not to vaccinate livestock against animal diseases that are not present in the United States for several reasons. First, the existence of multiple strains of the FMD virus means that no single vaccine can protect against more than a few strains of the disease. Second, because the FMD vaccine typically consists of a killed form of the live virus, vaccinated animals are hard to distinguish from infected ones and therefore cannot be sold.18
Third and most important, vaccinating against FMD changes a country’s export status. According to rules promulgated by the World Organization for Animal Health, whenever an outbreak occurs in a country or zone that is normally FMD-free and where vaccination is not practiced, a three-month waiting period is required after the last infected animal is slaughtered before exports can resume.3 If vaccination is practiced, however, the waiting period increases to 12 months. Because of this policy, the United States and other countries have sought to maintain their FMD-free status and avoid vaccination, thereby enjoying major trade advantages over meat-exporting FMD endemic countries.