Bird Flu Vaccine Authorized to Save California Condors
The United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (APHIS) today announced they approved the emergency use of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) vaccine candidate to prevent additional deaths of California Condors.
This vaccine clinical trial will be carried out with the surrogate vultures in North Carolina beginning in May 2023.
As of May 12, 2023, twenty-one Condors have died related to HPAI infections in 2023.
In April 2023, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service began testing several candidate vaccines.
Since the vaccine has not previously been tested against this strain of the HAPI virus in California Condors, the first step is a test with North American vultures, a similar species.
The authorized vaccine is a killed, inactivated product conditionally licensed by APHIS' Center for Veterinary Biologics in 2016.
This emergency use approval is limited to the endangered California condors.
The USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists continue researching vaccine options that could protect U.S. poultry from HPAI, should vaccination be necessary for additional birds.
Currently, biosecurity measures remain the best, most effective tool for mitigating the virus in commercial flocks.
For example, in March 2023, there were seven commercial poultry detections, a decrease of 85% from the previous year.
And in April 2023, there were just two commercial cases of HPAI.
Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Moffitt stated in a related press release, "Since the first case of HPAI was confirmed in a commercial flock in the U.S. in February 2022, the USDA has responded immediately to stop the virus from spreading."
Moffitt added, "For example, during the 2014-2015 outbreak, 70% of HPAI cases were attributed to lateral spread. Whereas in this outbreak, the lateral spread has been reduced to 15%."
As of May 2023, HAPI has impacted over 58 million birds in 6,737 outbreaks in 47 states (ten in the last month).
"But we must remain vigilant, especially as wild birds continue to pose disease risks," concluded Moffitt.
Globally, eleven human influenza A H5N1 18.104.22.168b infections have been recently reported during 2022-2023.
From a human perspective, the U.S. CDC confirms that annual flu shots are not designed to protect people from bird flu viruses.
However, the U.S. government has already approved one bird flu vaccine (Audenz™) for people should a pandemic occur.