Neglected tropical diseases

Increasing the adoption of animal vaccines to address livestock losses and boost control of neglected zoonotic diseases

23 April 2019 | Geneva −− Many smallholder farmers and marginalized populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America depend on animals for their livelihoods. However, a significant number of animals belonging to these farmers die due to diseases, do not achieve their potential or transmit zoonotic diseases. An increased adoption of animal vaccines by smallholder farmers can potentially prevent a wide range of these diseases.

In many sub-Saharan African countries, zoonotic diseases threaten livelihoods and food security leading to considerable losses,” said Dr Baptiste Dungu, Chief Executive Officer, Onderstepoort Biological Products. “There is an important role for zoonoses vaccines, but the majority of small farmers hardly know about them”.

A recent publication has outlined various strategies that can be used to increase the adoption of animal vaccines, with focus on the control of neglected tropical diseases, particularly neglected zoonotic diseases (NZDs), and marginalized populations.

Vaccination of animals against zoonotic diseases is a powerful public health tool,” said Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder, Team Leader, Neglected Zoonotic Diseases unit, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “It has the added value of providing a benefit in healthier animals that also generates income in families and communities.

Animal vaccines can be categorized into vaccines for diseases that cause economic losses, diseases controlled by government, and those for neglected animal diseases. Neglected animal diseases affect mainly animals of poor and marginalized populations in low-resource settings and for which no significant resources are invested. Examples include Taenia solium, Echinococcus granulosus and dog-transmitted rabies.

Vaccines are one of the most cost–effective methods to prevent disease in livestock populations,” said Dr Nick Nwankpa, Director, African Union Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre. “As animal vaccines frequently do not reach marginalized farmers, there is a need to analyse the various social and economic factors affecting vaccine adoption and to identify better ways to increase their use.

Strategies that can be used to increase the adoption of available animal vaccines by marginalized populations depend on the type of disease.

  • For diseases that cause economic losses, the strategies include the creation of access points, establishment of community supply, prize mechanisms, increased awareness and increased vaccine value.
  • For diseases controlled by the government, the strategies can include government policies that promote the use of vaccines, partially or fully subsidized vaccines only to marginalized populations, ensuring that vaccination policies promote cooperation among farmers, and strengthening national veterinary services.
  • For neglected animal diseases, including NZDs, the strategies will be different. For diseases such as T. solium and E. granulosus, animals do not show clinical manifestations or do not have any increased value after vaccination, providing little incentive for farmers to vaccinate. The strategies to address NZDs can include:
    • creation of vaccine antigen banks or stockpiles, such as the rabies vaccine bank.
    • transformation of public goods into private goods by combining vaccines, bundling products or expanding the label claims. For example, the vaccine for E. granulosus could be combined with clostridial vaccines or the vaccination for “Peste des petits ruminants”.
    • development of disease control guidelines and large-scale demonstrations that can encourage governments to implement similar programmes.
    • demonstration of the benefit of NZD control programmes to encourage donors and governments to invest in control of NZDs.
    • social participation and community engagement.
    • integration with other animal health activities. For example, the vaccination for T. solium could be integrated to the vaccination for classical swine fever.
    • integration with human health activities. For example, vaccination in pastoralist areas could be undertaken simultaneously in human and animal populations.
    • remove technical issues, such as the need for booster vaccines or a cold chain.
    • institution of prize mechanisms to overcome some of the technical issues such as the ones mentioned above.

Innovation and private sector involvement in implementing all these strategies can play an important role. Furthermore, international and philanthropic support can be crucial to address NZDs, particularly when animals do not show clinical signs and where marginalized populations have competing priorities.

Ashok Moloo
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