USDA Issues First License for Vaccine to Fight Pig-Killing Virus

The U.S. government today said it issued a conditional license for a vaccine to protect animals against a deadly pig virus that sparked a surge in pork prices.

The product will be available for sale directly to veterinarians and swine producers, according to a statement from the manufacturer, Ames, Iowa-based Harrisvaccines. There are no restrictions on vaccine use under the conditional license, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement.

About 8 million pigs in at least 30 states have died from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus since the U.S. outbreak began about a year ago, according to Steve Meyer, the president of Paragon Economics. The spreading virus sent retail pork-chops to an all-time high of $4.044 a pound in April, the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

“Preliminary studies have been promising, and they’ve shown sufficient data that we think the vaccine will be effective,” the USDA said. “This is the first licensed vaccine for PEDv. It will be used to vaccinate sows with the intent that they build antibody, and transmit that antibody through their milk to newborn piglets.”

The virus, which can be 100 percent fatal to young piglets, has trimmed the U.S. hog herd by about 10 percent, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this month at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. The USDA has pledged $26.2 million to help producers combat the disease.

About 2 million doses of the vaccine already have been sold by veterinary prescription, according to Harrisvaccines.

“We have experimental information that says it’s definitely boosting immunity in sows,” Joel Harris, the company’s head of sales and marketing, said today in a telephone interview.

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