Very few countries vaccinate their poultry for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), but Dr. Carol Cardona, Pomeroy chair in avian health for the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, believes that should change.

Cardona offered her opinions on the matter during the webinar, “Surviving Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza,” on June 21. The webinar was part of the Balchem Real Science Lecture Series.

Poultry flocks in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa have been hit by widespread HPAI outbreaks, yet the hardest hit countries are not vaccinating for HPAI.

However, Cardona said she “definitely” could foresee a time when avian influenza vaccines will be used, particularly because they are a tool the poultry industry could use to fight the virus.

But she also understands why they are not commonly used.

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“The downside of using vaccines at this time in the United States, and really anywhere across the globe is that they cause trade impacts. So there are many countries that won’t accept poultry or poultry products from a company that is vaccinating,” she said. “That is simply something that we’re going to have to get over, because globally, this particular clade of viruses, this H5 group of viruses, is so dangerous that we need to use every tool that we have.”

Cardona believes that through communication, cooperation and education, the situation could change and vaccines can be widely used. 

All countries need to understand where vaccinations are being used and how the vaccination process is being monitored. They also need assurance that avian influenza infections aren’t spreading to other species, and that practices being used aren’t creating a more dangerous situation, Cardona said.

The 2022 HPAI outbreak in North America has led to the death of more than 40 million commercial and backyard poultry in the United States alone. However, those cases have slowed in recent weeks, with the most recently confirmed case in U.S. commercial poultry occurring on June 9.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.