The USDA is working on developing a vaccine for avian influenza, but even if such a vaccine becomes a reality, it could be a while before it becomes available to poultry producers in the United States.

USDA Southeast Poultry Research Director David Swayne said during a USDA-hosted media call on April 22 that a laboratory under his supervision is working on a potential vaccine for the virus.

“We’re making progress on that. It’s a multi-step process that involves completion of one step, evaluating the information and going back to additional steps,” said Swayne. “At this point, we have a potential seed strain but once we complete our work, which will include testing in chickens and turkeys, the decision to use that vaccine will only be made if it’s necessary in the regulatory process of the eradication. Our work is only on the front end.”

Once the laboratory does its “front end” work, the potential vaccine would then be evaluated by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), with consultation from staff members of state labs, to decide whether the vaccine created could actually be used in the industry.

The idea of finding a vaccine for avian influenza has been of particular interest to the U.S. poultry industry, as avian influenza outbreaks have been reported in commercial poultry flocks, backyard flocks, wild birds and captive wild birds in 17 states.

USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, who joined Swayne in the call, added that the agency has also had conversations with some private companies that have expressed an interest in developing a vaccine for avian influenza.

See a related story about how Clifford and Swayne discussed their views on future avian influenza outbreaks in the United States.