France to embark on huge avian flu vaccination programme

The war against avian flu continues: some 60 million ducks are to be vaccinated in France over the next year as the country embarks on a campaign to combat the virus.

France’s first 80 million doses will come from German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, meaning the government will have to invite tenders for more supply.

In Europe’s only mass-vaccination campaign against avian flu, the two-jab course is obligatory for ducklings, from as young as 10 days old, on farms raising more than 250 birds.

The first shots were administered on a farm in the Landes region of southwestern France this week, observed by French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau.

“This vaccination plan… is a world first: its goal is to protect all farmed birds and should put an end to the preventive slaughter of animals, which no one wants to live with anymore,” duck and foie gras production group CIFOG said in a statement.

Although there are currently no disease hotspots in France, the country has endured regular outbreaks of avian flu since 2020 after suffering a particularly bad wave between 2015 and 2017.

Discovery of a case generally results in a cull for the entire farm population and those of others nearby, bringing obvious disruption to production and taking a significant financial toll.

There are also fears that the virus could mutate and become transmissible to humans, prompting further pandemics.