LONDON – Farmers in the United Kingdom will be the first in the European Union to use a new Schmallenberg vaccine. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) accelerated its assessment of the drug to make it available by summer. VMD is an executive agency of the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

“It is welcome news for British farmers to have the choice to vaccinate their animals,” said DEFRA’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Office Alick Simmons. “The vaccine will give extra assurance against this disease on top of the natural immunity we expect sheep and cattle to develop after initial exposure.”

VMD issued a license to the veterinary pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health, which will provide the new ‘Bovilis SBV’ vaccine. Sheep and cattle can be vaccinated against the virus before becoming pregnant. Schmallenberg virus is believed to be transmitted by midges. The virus can cause birth defects and stillbirths in cattle, goats and sheep. Reports from farmers show 1,753 farms throughout Great Britain have tested positive for the virus.

“This is the culmination of intensive activity on the part of MSD Animal Health and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to make a safe and effective vaccine available to tackle Schmallenberg,” said Pete Borriello, CEO of Veterinary Medicines Directorate. “Without in any way compromising the scientific rigor of our assessment process, we accelerated our assessment so that a vaccine will be available this summer.

“This means it will be possible to vaccinate sheep and cattle before most of them become pregnant. This is important as it is during pregnancy when exposure to the virus can cause damage to the fetus,” he added.