Vaccinating poultry for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is still not a practice done in the United States, but it is an idea that appears to be finding less opposition than before.

Since so many countries won’t accept poultry imports from regions where avian influenza vaccination has been done, there has traditionally been opposition to vaccination programs.

But as the HPAI outbreak has been so widespread in the United States in 2022, some in the poultry industry, and more specifically in the turkey industry, are rethinking that opposition, said Dr. Sara McReynolds, Kansas deputy animal health commissioner.

McReynolds was a featured speaker during the Kansas Ag Summit, held August 18 in Manhattan.

Kansas only had one commercial flock affected by HPAI in 2022, and that was a commercial turkey breeding flock. The turkey industry, as a whole, has been hit harder by HPAI than the broiler industry, both in the present and in past outbreaks, so McReynolds said there is some open mindedness among turkey producers about vaccinations

“There has been more discussion. Some companies in Europe are starting to look at vaccination more, which is (leading) some companies in the United States consider it more,” McReynolds said.

“Certain industries are more excited about vaccination. Turkeys are very susceptible to this virus, and they are wanting to look into vaccination more than the broiler industry, (which) didn’t have near as many cases.”

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McReynolds also pointed out that the U.S. broiler industry does a lot of international trade, so that sector is not as excited to be looking at vaccines.

But for producers that have had to go through the hardship of an avian influenza infection, it is easier to see vaccination’s potential benefits.

“It’s hard on the producer. This is their livelihood. It’s hard on the responders, and when you’re having such strict biosecurity and you still get this virus in your barn, it’s hard on everybody,” said McReynolds.

She also pointed out that HPAI outbreaks are hard on the taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for the disease response.

“If we continue to see this kind of outbreak every year, or every few years, I think we’re going to have to look at vaccination,” McReynolds said.

Read our ongoing coverage of the global avian influenza outbreak.