The CEO of Sanderson Farms says he is apprehensive about the potential vaccination of poultry against avian influenza (AI), citing the U.S. government's lack of knowledge about possible vaccines and their effectiveness.

Speaking recently at the Goldman Sachs Global Staples Forum, Joe Sanderson Jr. said much still needs to be learned before the U.S. can implement a vaccination program.

“They do not know much about these vaccines. It has not been tested well,” said Sanderson. “They do not know if a bird that has been vaccinated, when exposed, is going to still get the virus and have a miler case, or if it is going to shed live virus once it’s exposed. I think they need to know the answer to those two questions before they vaccinate a lot of chickens with it, or turkeys.”

Sanderson added that he would be supportive of a plan to test the vaccines on a trial basis “if they did it in one state, and they did a small sample and see what it did.” He said more widespread vaccination without the knowledge of avian influenza vaccines would be a case of “ready, fire, aim.”

Avian influenza vaccination and trade implications

Sanderson also spoke cautiously about avian influenza vaccination and its implications on international trade.

“We are concerned because once they start vaccinating, they are going to be some countries that are going to say AI is endemic to the U.S. as soon as they start vaccinating, because every one of the birds that is vaccinated is going to test positive for AI from now on,’ Sanderson said.