Japan’s farm minister to allow swine fever vaccination

TOKYO, Sep. 21 – In the battle against swine fever, Taku Eto, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, has decided to start preparing for the change the country’s epidemic prevention policy. After the policy change, the country is going to introduce a new vaccination program for pigs grown at pig farms, he said.

The revision will make it possible to vaccinate pigs based on the permission by a governor of each prefecture. However, there will be several issues to be clarified, such as target areas, and the ministry intends to discuss with experts and representatives of prefectures to establish a concrete plan. The revision is expected to take at least a month as it requires processes such as public comment gathering. Meanwhile, the ministry has already asked vaccine manufacturers to increase production.

Current epidemic prevention policy does not allow preventive vaccination. A year has passed since the first infected pig was found in September last year, but the outbreak is still ongoing. So, the ministry decided to make the policy change to prevent the epidemic from spreading further across several prefectures in the Kanto area.

Based on the rules by the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, Japan may lose the status of being “clean country” once it starts vaccinating pigs. It means Japan cannot export pork or pork products. Eto told the press that he is going to start negotiating with trade partners to ensure that Japan can keep exporting the products.

The vaccination may cause reputational damage as well. But the country had been vaccinating pigs until 2006, and “there will be no safety problems at all with the restart of the vaccination,” Eto emphasized. The minister said he’ll make sure that consumers and business bodies understand the safety of the vaccination program to prevent rumors. “We’ll need to take measures against such rumors if we face them,” he said.

There are vaccines in stock for 1.5 million doses, the ministry said. But it may not be enough depending on the size of the target areas. So, the ministry asked for the rise in vaccine production.

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