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Local scientists optimistic to release soon ‘improved East Coast Fever vaccine’

THE Kenyan government is reproducing half a million doses of vaccine for the East Coast Fever (ECF) disease as the current ones that have been used since 1995 are running out.

The Veterinary Research Institute confirmed that production and the official release of the vaccine will take place before the end of the year. V RI Director Dr. Erick Mungube says livestock farmers in the country will soon benefit from the vaccine which he noted is friendly in terms of cost and use. “Farmers are not reaping maximum benefits from their cattle because of attack of the East Coast Fever.

The disease is caused that by a single parasite, transmitted by brown ear tick and which is serious and often fatal.” He said Dr. Mungube said the disease has denied dairy farmers huge opportunities to reap maximum benefits from their cattle even as he disclosed that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has financed the vaccine production to the tune of about Ksh15 million (USD150,000).

“Through its Feed the Future programme, USAID is funding the half a million vaccine production for farmers in Kenya and in the region,” he said .

The Centre Director confirmed that scientists have so far produced 150,000 doses of vaccine that is ready for the launch. “We have almost run out of the previous vaccine but equally, we have been developing a new set of the injection to assist millions of livestock farmers to tackle the disease in order to boost their cow’s productivity,” said Dr. Mungube.

The vaccine that is currently being used was produced in 1995 and since then over half a million doses have been sold out. The V eterinary Research Institute is concerned that over 4.5 million heads of dairy animals that are susceptible to the disease are at risk. It estimates that without proper treatment, 80 percent of the affected cattle will be wiped out.

The institute’s head of protozoology division that is involved in research of tick and tick-borne diseases Dr. Sam Ndungu said apart from vaccine production, other strategies are being worked out to solve ECF both in the pastoral areas and the dairy system.

“This vaccine was produced in Kenya for Africa before moving to Malawi where the initial vaccine known as Muguga cocktail is commercially produced,” Dr. Ndungu disclosed

The research scientist disclosed that it takes around 2 years to produce the ECF vaccine noting that the occurrence of ticks in East Central and South Africa is one of the major limiting factors of livestock productivity with the fatality rate for untreated ECF being as high as 100 percent in cattle.

The disease is said to be present in 12 countries in Africa and has had an adverse impact on Africa economies with losses exceeded an estimated KSh30 billion annually.

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Author: Correspondent Eric Biegon

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