With the government shutdown, APHIS’ Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB) – the agency overseeing the release of vaccines for use in animal health, in particular poultry, cattle and swine– has furloughed employees. This means CVB will not release serials (batches) of vaccines for distribution. The agency has said that after 14 days, they will reevaluate.
“Two weeks of stalled vaccine delivery will directly impact food safety, animal health and bio-security,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown, National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association President John Starkey, in a letter to congressional officials. “The animal health industry cannot wait that long. Because producers hold limited supply of these vaccines, many of the large poultry, swine and cattle companies will be out of critical vaccines in a matter of days. Once they run out, they will be faced with tough decisions including not vaccinating their flocks or herds and shutting down production and furloughing their own employees.”
Every time a company produces a batch of vaccine, it sends an analysis of that batch and samples to USDA/CVB, which then approves the release of the batch of product into the marketplace for commercial sale. This is known as “serial release.” Previously, this has been deemed an essential service that continues during government shutdowns, as these products play a crucial role in the protection of animal health and directly impact food safety and public health.
The current USDA interpretation, however, does not include serial release as an essential service, immediately stopping the release of all animal vaccines to the market.
The poultry industry’s letter concluded, “Animal health vaccine release is an essential activity. With the far-ranging impact on food safety, human health and animal health, we are seriously concerned about the disregard of this fundamental understanding. We ask that appropriate funding be allocated immediately, so there are no interruptions at CVB.”