Cattle vaccination against bovine tuberculosis could offer farmers an important tool to help prevent TB infection in their herds, but it will not wipe out the disease completely.
Glyn Hewinson, chief scientist at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), commented that he did not think that cattle vaccination "can be a strategy on its own - you have to use all the tools in your toolbox," but he added that "the level of investment that's going into the development of TB vaccines shows the commitment to develop these important tools to control TB in the UK."
Defra has budgeted £15.5 million for research into developing effective cattle TB vaccines over the next four years, and the AHVLA has developed a blood test - a DIVA test - which can distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.
Defra is currently working with the EU to change legislation to allow a BCG cattle vaccine and the DIVA to be used in combination to tackle bovine TB, with the aim of allowing both to be used legally in the UK.
However, Defra secretary Owen Paterson has insisted that vaccination is still not a viable alternative to badger culling. Speaking at a meeting of the Conservative Rural Affairs Group, in Birmingham, he said that currently, vaccines are "not yet in a position to be deployed" in either cattle or badgers.