The redeeming shot: massive aid for a large-scale vaccination campaign against bluetongue | Domestic


Annelies Lap grew up among the sheep on a hobby farm on Ameland. Now the veterinary medicine student, like many others, is in the starting blocks for the mass vaccination campaign against bluetongue. Nearly 1 million sheep and even more cattle are waiting for the redeeming injection.

Annelies Lap is actually working on her thesis for the specialization Horse in Veterinary Medicine. “But that can be postponed for a few days,” she says at the Utrecht faculty farm De Tolakker. “If I can do something to prevent new suffering, I would be very happy to do so.”

More than one hundred and twenty volunteers have registered with the KNMvD, the professional organization for veterinarians, to help with the upcoming vaccination campaign. Fellow student Noëlle Cox, who gained experience with sheep during an internship in Norway, also makes time. “It’s all hands on deck,” she reasons.

Drooling and stuffy

Last year, approximately forty thousand sheep succumbed to bluetongue. The viral disease, caused by the bite of the midge, spread like wildfire across the country and affected more than five thousand companies. The clinical picture is grim: sick sheep get painful joints, bleeding, they drool and gasp for breath. About a quarter of the infected sheep died.

With rising temperatures, livestock farmers are now holding their breath. Because how quickly will the midge emerge again this year? And will the cattle be vaccinated in time? “I understand that tension,” says Lap. “A livestock farmer not only wants the best for his animals, he is also financially dependent on them. It is terrible to discover in the morning that some sheep are again showing signs of illness.”

Sheep on the Tolakker, the farm of the faculty of veterinary medicine at Utrecht University. © Marlies Wessels

That is why there was cheering in the sector when the vaccine Syvazul BTV 3 from the Spanish manufacturer Laboratorias Syva was recently approved for the Dutch market. Initially, one million doses will be distributed to veterinary clinics. Another million doses will follow two weeks later. But those vaccines must be administered. And that concerns skilled craftsmanship.

To ensure that the immense job is completed quickly and efficiently, the KNMvD called on possible volunteers to register. The KNMvD vacancy bank now contains a group of more than 120 master’s students (who are allowed to vaccinate under supervision), self-employed people and retired veterinarians. Veterinary clinics, which are now making their schedules for the vaccinations, can use the help offered.


Bluetongue is a very miserable way for sheep to die. That’s why I’m happy that there is finally a vaccine

Jeroen Bakkenes, semi-retired veterinarian

The semi-retired Jeroen Bakkenes from Hoek van Holland is also ready. “I have plenty of time,” he says. He sold his clinic years ago, but he still practices his specialization one day a week: horse surgery. This mainly concerns treatment of the condition OCD, in which pieces of bone in joints become loose. “I can also give sheep an injection.”

Don’t have to catch yet

The same applies to Hotze Wiersma from Espel. Years of work as a veterinarian on experimental farms around Lelystad gave him a wealth of experience with sheep. “Bluetongue is a tragedy,” he says. The born Frisian likes to roll up his sleeves when clinics need him.

Nearly forty thousand sheep died from bluetongue last year. Cattle also become ill, but the infection is less severe in them and results in less milk production.
Nearly forty thousand sheep died from bluetongue last year. Cattle also become ill, but the infection is less severe in them and results in less milk production. © Marlies Wessels

The KNMvD calls on sheep farmers to prepare well for vaccination. “That means: make sure that your sheep are close to each other, so that you do not have to catch sheep in the open field first,” says Julia Hamel, spokesperson for the KNMvD. Sheep need one injection, while sheep need two.

“Bluetongue is a very miserable way for sheep to die,” says Bakkenes. “That’s why I’m happy that there is finally a vaccine for these animals. Let’s hope that one against bird flu will soon be available.”

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: redeeming shot massive aid largescale vaccination campaign bluetongue Domestic


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