Protecting Canada from the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) requires constant vigilance. For the livestock sector, this threat is serious and would have devastating consequences on the Canadian beef industry and our economy.
FMD is a highly contagious viral infection of cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, pigs, and sheep. Canada remains FMD free, but as an industry we cannot be complacent. The risk of FMD entering North America exists, as the world opens to more frequent travel following the pandemic. Everyone has a role in ensuring FMD remains out of Canada.
Canada has been FMD free since 1952. Our FMD-free status is critical to maintaining access to our international markets for beef and live cattle trade.
With many areas of the world being FMD positive and the elevated risk in Indonesia, the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) continues to advocate for the establishment of a Canadian vaccine bank. This is a key part of our preparedness plan to help mitigate losses to the Canadian beef industry and our economy if FMD were ever to occur in Canada.
A vaccine bank is a strategic reserve of frozen antigen concentrate that can be quickly formulated into a vaccine if an outbreak is discovered in Canada. Canada participates in a shared North American vaccine bank with the United States and Mexico. While this bank was historically considered sufficient to meet our needs, evolving science and international trade regulations mean that FMD vaccine is now more accepted than in the past. With this evolution, the United States recognized that the shared North American bank was not sufficient to mitigate their risk and invested in a dedicated bank for their country.
It is important that Canada make a similar investment to bolster our response capacity. There is full agreement on the need for a larger, national vaccine bank among Canada’s beef, dairy, and pork sectors. The challenge remains securing the funding needed to support establishing and maintaining the doses. Specifically, CCA, together with other national livestock associations, is recommending the establishment of a vaccine bank comprised of 30 million doses with 2.5 million of 12 different strains as part of our emergency preparedness plan.
An investment by the Government of Canada in a Canadian FMD vaccine bank is a critical component in preventing catastrophic losses to the sector and the broader Canadian economy should FMD occur in our country. The projected annual cost to maintain the vaccine bank is $3.2-4 million including potency and licensing testing. The potential financial impact of an FMD outbreak in Canada is estimated at $50 to $60 billion.
This fall, CCA increased communication about the urgency for Canada to invest in a Canadian FMD vaccine bank. Together, with our provincial counterparts across the country, we called on the federal government to invest in this critical infrastructure. Recently, CCA met with representatives from the federal government in Ottawa to reinforce the importance of establishing Canada’s vaccine bank.
Establishing the vaccine bank is a necessary step in ensuring Canada’s preparedness for an FMD incursion. To support the effective use of the bank, our industry is increasing its collaborative work with the government, other cloven-hoofed commodities, and Animal Health Canada to bolster our prevention, response, and recovery plans.
CCA will continue to build on our advocacy efforts on this issue, and the FMD vaccine bank is a key ask in our submission for the pre-budget consultations.