New vaccine beefs up meat export dream for Kenya

Thursday January 21 2016

Cows feed at a farm in Meru on November 5, 2015. A vaccine for the trans-boundary foot and mouth disease has been developed after three years of trial and testing. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cows feed at a farm in Meru on November 5, 2015. A vaccine for the trans-boundary foot and mouth disease has been developed after three years of trial and testing. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN NGUGI
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Kenya’s long elusive quest to export beef to the lucrative European Union (EU) market has received a huge boost after a new livestock vaccine, which researchers say will be able to control foot and mouth disease, was unveiled in the country.

Kenyan beef and live animals have always been restricted entry into the EU market because of the disease that is endemic in the country.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (Kevevapi) acting chief executive officer, Dr Jane Wachira, said the State agency had finished trials of the vaccine and the first batch of 430,000 doses that can immunise the same number of animals is ready.

“The commercial batch is ready awaiting launch and then roll-out,” said Dr Wachira during the launch of the institute’s re-aligned strategic plan for the period 2013-2017.

It is expected that the vaccine will give a huge boost to Kenya’s livestock markets, eventually beefing up efforts to promote beef and animal products from the country to enter into the highly regulated European Union market for the first time.

Dr Wachira termed the development of the new oil-based foot and mouth disease vaccine, which she noted is an improvement from the current water-based vaccine, a milestone, citing its “long immunity period and a longer shelf life”.

The Kenyan livestock sector plays an important economic and socio-cultural role among many local communities contributing to food and cash needs of the farmers while providing employment to over 10 million people in East Africa.

The sector contributes an estimated 12 per cent of GDP, which is 40 per cent of the agricultural GDP in Kenya, according to official figures.

The vaccine for the trans-boundary foot and mouth disease has been developed after three years of trial and testing.

Secondary infections occur in livestock after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease according to scientists.

They include bacterial infections, which often lead to mastitis as well as reproductive complications in livestock.