Data Hub

Milestone as Kenya starts making vaccine for three deadly livestock diseases

vaccine

Vaccination has been noted as the most effective way of controlling dozens of infectious diseases threatening livestock production. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

BDgeneric_logo

Summary

  • Of the most serious livestock diseases Pasteurella (pulpy kidney), Enterotoxaemia (haemorrhagic septicemia) and the Rift Valley Fever have been identified as the most notorious. 
  • To minimise losses, the IDRC recently partnered with KEVEVAPI to locally produce the vaccines against the three stubborn diseases.
  • Under the partnership, MCI Santé Animal — a Moroccan animal health company — manufactures a concentrated formula of the three vaccines then passes them to KEVEVAPI where they would be reconstituted and packaged into small doses that suit the demands of the local marke

For years, livestock production for an average Kenyan farmer has been such a great risk. Apart from frequent droughts that claim water and pasture for the animals, deadly diseases such as the Rift Valley fever are also always lurking just nearby.

Without elaborate agricultural extension services or affordable livestock insurance to cushion farmers from potential risks, this rank of farmers will always be staring at losses whenever drought or diseases strike.

Nevertheless, dozens of farmers now have more information on climate change. They have devised alternative means of surviving the droughts — either by drilling boreholes, harvesting and storing water, stocking hay or reducing their herds. Observably, the strategies are working effectively in addressing livestock deaths during droughts.

However, while climate-smart strategies are proving effective in reducing livestock mortality in some regions, several farmers still count losses as they lose their herds to diseases due to limited access to the right vaccines.

Vaccination has been noted as the most effective way of controlling dozens of infectious diseases threatening livestock production. And unlike commercial farmers who make good use of livestock vaccines, small-scale and subsistent farmers face major challenges in vaccine acquisition and use experts say.

Dr Jane Wachira, the CEO Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI), points out that losses incurred by small-scale livestock farmers run into millions of shilling courtesy disease infections.

Dr Wachira further notes that there are about 30 million sheep and goats in the semi-arid areas — which makes the sector very important to the economy yet tens of these animals die every year due to cross tidal infections.

Of the most serious livestock diseases Pasteurella (pulpy kidney), Enterotoxaemia (haemorrhagic septicemia) and the Rift Valley Fever have been identified as the most notorious. The three diseases, according to livestock experts, have a huge impact on cattle and small ruminant production due to their prevalence in the region.

Dr Victor Mbao, a tropical animal health scientist at International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) observes that the Rift Valley Fever is a zoonotic disease hence it can jump from animals to humans, making it disastrous.

Globally, economic losses from diseased livestock are estimated at $4 billion, while infectious diseases are responsible for about 30 per cent of animal deaths. In many sub-Saharan African countries, where livestock production accounts for 25 per cent of economic activity, these diseases threaten livelihoods and food security, according to the IDRC.

Between 2006 and 2007, the Rift Valley Fever, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a virus that infects both animals and humans, claimed the lives of 150 people in Kenya and losses worth $32 million in livestock deaths, reduced animal productivity and trade bans on the animals and related products.

The biggest challenge of the diseases, according to Dr Mbao, is that they do not occur frequently and, therefore, farmers do not see the need to vaccinate their herds regularly.

Sadly, an outbreak finds animals not protected and tens of the livestock die by the time a farmer gets the vaccine, he says.

To minimise such losses, the IDRC recently partnered with KEVEVAPI to locally produce the vaccines against the three stubborn diseases.

The vaccines, which include PASTREVAX®, CLOSTIVAX® and Riftovax 19 shall are used against Pasteurella, Enterotoxaemia and Rift Valley Fever respectively.

The vaccines have been termed as a game-changer in livestock rearing since once the diseases are eradicated, farmers can have unrestricted access to premium markets. Pasteurella and Enterotoxaemia vaccines were released in the market about a year ago.

“When we talked to KEVEVAPI they said farmers needed the three vaccines, they were on high demand, yet two of these vaccines were not being produced locally. So we decided to support the production of two vaccines and enhance the production of the other vaccine,” Dr Mbao explained.

Under the partnership, MCI Santé Animal — a Moroccan animal health company — manufactures a concentrated formula of the three vaccines then passes them to KEVEVAPI where they would be reconstituted and packaged into small doses that suit the demands of the local market.

For many years, over-reliance of imported fully processed vaccines have locked millions of farmers with small herds of livestock from accessing the crucial vaccines.

But according to Dr Mbao, one major advantage of the partnership between the Kenyan vaccine manufacturer and their Moroccan counterpart is that KEVEVAPI will not need to invest in new product lines. They can use their existing facility and personnel, making the production cheaper.

“Some of the vaccines are not designed for smallholder farmers in the sense that they are not available in small doses like for five or 10 cattle. This can, however, be addressed when with local production,” Dr Mbao stated.

He added that there still many vaccines such as those used against East Coast Fever, which comes in packages of 40 doses. This, he says, is a waste and costly for smallholder farmers with a herd of five-10 cows.

Dr Mbao also points out that vaccination comes in handy, especially in international trade where a country exporting livestock needs to assure their trading partners that they are not importing disease.

“Certain requirements are usually needed before animals are shipped. And some of the requirements include proofs that the animals are free of disease and that they are vaccinated against certain diseases,” he says.

Besides the three vaccines, the KEVEVAPI is also partnering with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation to develop the CBPP vaccine, a vaccine against pneumonia for cattle. The project is currently at the level of field testing.

“We are also working on the PPR vaccine project (vaccine against goat plague) to develop a thermal-stable vaccine (a vaccine that does not need refrigeration). We want to ensure that when this vaccine goes into semi-arid areas where temperatures are very high, and the infrastructure is poor. It will still be efficacious enough to vaccinate an animal and get protected,” says Dr Wachira.

The experts, however, advise farmers to have a programme and vaccinate their animals before an outbreak.

Increased adoption of animal vaccines by smallholder farmers can potentially prevent a wide range of these diseases, they say.

Dr Wachira explains that farmers need to vaccinate their livestock every three months against foot-and-mouth disease. According to the livestock expert, farmers need to seek advice from veterinary officers on where to get the vaccines and how to use them.

“Vaccinating an animal during an outbreak is wrong since you can also become a mechanical carrier of the same disease as you go to clean the animal houses,” she said.