Livestock keepers across the country have a reason to smile following the launch of a new vaccine that seeks to counter the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia disease (CBPP).
The launch of the CBPP vaccine, a first against the deadly livestock lung disease recorded by regional scientists across the continent, marks one of the most long-awaited medical breakthroughs for the sector.
The Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI) has since licensed the commercial production of the vaccine, which took researchers about six years to develop, and intends to start rolling it out in the next twelve months.
CBPP can cause loses from 20% up to 80% . Lack of strong vaccines against the disease has accounted for death of more than 10 million cattle in the Arid and Semi-Arid Areas (ASALS) in the country and about 24 million in sub Saharan region, researchers say.
The total yearly cost of the disease in endemic areas between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn is estimated to be US $634 million. Morbidity and mortality vary between different pathogen strains.
Dr. Hezron Wesonga, a senior researcher at Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) said the new vaccine demonstrates a significant potential for improved stability in livestock production and will prevent further livestock losses.
The research was funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian Aid Programme, at a tune of Sh659 million over the six years’ period. Other major partners in the project include Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
The vaccine which has 80 percent efficacy is considered superior to the regular one whose efficacy range between 30 percent to 40 percent performance.
“The new vaccine is advantageous in that its ten times cheaper and is thermo-tolerant enabling it to withstand higher temperatures. In addition, the number of severe reactions are reduced compared to the old one and it can also withstand harsh transportation environment unlike the current one which requires a cold chain,” said Dr. Wesonga a principal researcher in the CBPP project.
The scientist added they are working round the clock to put in place necessary regulations before full commercialization of the vaccine.
Wesonga, who leads the team, confirmed they are working on a database to inform the number of farmers to benefit from the vaccine once it is rolled out.
Dr. Jane Wachira, Chief Executive Officer KEVAVAPI, confirmed that the country is served by 13 vaccines and the CBPP vaccine becomes the 14th. She will work with the department of Veterinary Services and county governments to ensure farmers get access to the vaccine which will be distributed in all the 47 outlets across the counties as well and agents in the region and other African countries.
A Senior Program Specialist in charge of Agriculture and Food Security Program with International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Dr. Jemimah Njuki, said smallholder livestock farmers in Africa are exposed to numerous diseases resulting to losses estimating over Sh200 billion (USD 2 billion) every year.
“We believe that the rollout of this vaccine is going to be critical in achievement of the Food and Nutrition Security under the Big Four Agenda and more so for livestock dependent communities,” reckoned Dr. Njuki.