The Van Trump Report

The World Officially Has a Vaccine Against African Swine Fever…What Does it Mean for US Producers?

Vietnam has approved the commercial use of two locally-made vaccines for African swine fever (ASF). The vaccines, both of which was developed in collaboration with researchers from the United States Agricultural Research Institute (ARS), are the first to ever be approved anywhere in the world for commercial use against the deadly pig virus.

The vaccines include “NAVET-ASFVAC,” co-developed by Navetco Central Veterinary Medicine, and “AVAC ASF LIVE vaccine,” co-developed by AVAC Vietnamese JSC. The latter was actually discovered in the US and commercial development was carried out by the Vietnamese company. Both companies say they are working to create a production plan for domestic sales and exports under Vietnam’s agriculture ministry.

Both vaccines have been tested on hog herds in Vietnam (over 650,000 doses in all), with an efficacy rate of 95%, according to the ag ministry. Additionally, USDA scientists reviewed the results of the co-developed Navetco vaccine and said it showed a high level of efficacy and no safety risks or problems. The AVAC vaccine has actually been administered to more pigs but has not yet been reviewed by the USDA. However, the AVAC vaccine has been officially recommended by the Philippines’ Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).  

ASF, with a mortality rate close to 100%, has ravaged hog farms around the globe. Financial losses are in the hundreds of billions of dollars, while some 1.3 million pigs have died since just 2021 in nearly 50 countries. Although ASF has not reached the United States, Iowa State researchers estimate an ASF outbreak in the US would result in a $79.5 billion impact on the pork and beef industries that would take years to recover from.

The impact of ASF is not limited to just farmers and business – consumers also pay a steep price. In 2018-2019, a severe ASF outbreak wiped out nearly half of China’s domestic pig herd. Retail pork prices in China soared nearly +80%, while the massive increase in China’s import demand tightened supplies around the world and led to an increase in domestic prices, including in the US. That was on top of prices and supplies that were already pressured by ASF losses in numerous other countries. Globally, the 2018-2019 outbreak led to the death or culling of about a quarter of the world’s domestic pig population, with Asia particularly hard hit.

The big question for US producers is when/if the vaccine will used here at home. The biggest problem with the vaccines is that the antibodies they produce can not be differentiated from those produced by ASF infection. That means there is no way to differentiate vaccinated animals from animals that have contracted the virus, which is a massive problem for exporters that need to prove their product is not tainted.

The USDA has not said whether these or any other ASF vaccines will be made available to US producers. Following the positive review of Navetco’s vaccine by US researchers, agriculture secretary Thomas Vilsack in June said there was likely to be interest in precautionary purchases in the United States, despite the country having so far been spared from the virus. Other USDA officials have said that the US is considering ASF vaccine options but is otherwise committed to maximizing biosecurity measures in order to avoid a disease outbreak. (Sources: USDA, National Hog Farmer, Reuters, The Pig Site)

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