SD senators call for action on avian flu vaccination

Mike Rounds and John Thune say any delay in discussions about vaccines and trade could slow the rollout of a new vaccine.

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Both United States senators from South Dakota think it is time for the federal government to begin discussions in an effort to update trade agreements that would allow the potential usage of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) vaccine.

Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to expedite those efforts, and expressing their support for an avian influenza vaccination program.

“As you know, U.S. officials will be required to negotiate with major trade partners before allowing any poultry producers to make use of a HPAI vaccine without impacting export ability,” the senators wrote. “Any delay in these discussions has the potential to slow the rollout of a new vaccine. We, therefore, request the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) work proactively with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to resolve potential trade disputes while continuing to support a robust research program related to vaccine efficacy and a surveillance program.”

South Dakota had more commercial flocks impacted by HPAI in 2023, and was second only to Minnesota in 2022. The state has already had two commercial upland gamebird flocks infected this year, and Rounds and Thune stressed that many more are likely to come.

“We recognize that without updated trade agreements, the use of HPAI vaccination can put our poultry and egg industry at a disadvantage, so now is the time to begin the tedious work of talking with our trading partners to solidify agreements that reflect the new reality. While we recognize trade considerations will impact any potential vaccine rollout, it is important for USDA to consider the needs of all producers and prioritize animal health,” the senators wrote.

“ … We are hopeful about the benefits of the vaccines being developed, but we remain concerned that the important work of updating the trade agreements will not keep up with the scientific advancements. As HPAI vaccine research continues, we respectfully request animal health and trade leaders give special consideration to impacted producers.”

The letter follows a policy brief recently published by the World Ogranisation for Animal Health (WOAH), which stated that HPAI vaccination may be necessary to stop the spread of the virus, and that it meets all criteria for safe trade when implemented properly.

South Dakota's newest HPAI case

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of HPAI in a commercial upland gamebird flock in Edmunds County on January 24. There were 21,000 birds in that flock. Earlier in 2024, a commercial upland gamebird operation in Spink County, involving 1,900 birds, was hit by HPAI.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation

To learn more about HPAI cases in commercial poultry flocks in the United States, Mexico and Canada, see an interactive map on   

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