Why can’t we vaccinate against Bird Flu?

Recent news reports have featured the new consortium, investigating critical gaps in our science knowledge of avian influenza outbreaks – a great boost for the poultry industry, keepers and the rural economy.


We fully understand the heartache and frustration of not being able to protect our birds.  This unprecedented level of disease we have seen in the current outbreak has come as a huge blow to many. How do we plan ahead for the future? All we can say with certainty is that we all need to be thinking about good biosecurity all year round. Some tough choices may need to be made. We (BWA) have had a seat at the table, listening to the evidence presented and watching the spread and some of its causes. There is not one single magic bullet.

Looking at our own human problems, it is easy to ask why we cannot have a vaccine, but far harder to answer.

The vaccination of poultry and most captive birds against avian influenza is not currently permitted. Vaccination is not a routine control measure and is a practice restricted by legislation. In England only, not Scotland and Wales, Zoos may apply for authorisation to vaccinate, but there are very strict criteria to be met.

Though vaccines can prevent some birds dying, it is likely that some vaccinated birds could transmit the diseae if they get infected. This could counter detection and eradication. As with our human viruses, Avian Influenza can mutate rapidly. Development of a well-matched vaccine would not neccesarily be in phase with an outbreak.

The full official policy can be found here.