National govt urged to pay for ASF vaccines


The national government must shoulder the entire cost of vaccinating the country’s 9.7 million pigs against African swine fever (ASF) once the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) vaccine trials yield positive results.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the results of the initial tests of two ASF vaccines would be released by the end of the month. The DA’s expert panel would evaluate the results.

Phase 1 clinical trial of the ASF vaccines is currently underway. Dar said the vaccines would have to undergo Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials before it could be given to the country’s pig population.

The agriculture chief said they expect both Phases 2 and 3 trials to be completed within the year, with a final decision on the use of the vaccine being rendered before the year ends.

“Just like in Covid-19, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Before the end of the year, there will be a decision whether to go ahead if the vaccine trials are successful or if there will be other ways forward,” he said.

“If these two vaccines are successful or even just one of them, we will recommend to the national government—to our dear President—that the government must buy all the vaccines and shoulder all the expenses for the vaccination of our 9.7 million hog population.”

In July, the agriculture chief said the DA, through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), started the trials for two vaccine prototypes in 10 private hog companies last April 23.

The initial trials seek to determine if the vaccines would increase the hogs’ antibodies against ASF. The subsequent trials are aimed at determining if the vaccines are capable of killing the ASF virus especially among infected hogs, Dar said.

The government has culled over 400,000 hogs to date since confirming the first ASF outbreak in August 2019. The fatal hog disease has resulted in a pork supply shortfall of about 400,000 metric tons (MT) forcing the government to reduce tariffs and increase minimum access volume for pork imports to augment domestic supply.

Last month the DA said government’s efforts against the dreaded hog disease have been “effective” as active ASF cases were observed in only 19 barangays nationwide.

In terms of ASF positive samples, BAI recorded only 176 positive samples in May, the lowest in a year or since the 152 ASF positive samples recorded in May 2020.

Citing the declining active cases and ASF positive samples, BAI said in two to three years time the country would have a “good handle” of the nationwide ASF situation.

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