Vaccinating Badger

We need more research in this area but early indications show that vaccinating badgers is very effective at preventing bTB in the badger population

Badger Vaccination project carried out by the National Trust at Killerton Estate, Devon


It has been found to result in a reduction of 74% in badgers testing positive to Bovine TB after vaccination. A comparable rate in vaccinated humans is around 55%. CLICK HERE

Why vaccinate badgers against bovine TB?

Vaccinating badgers reduces the severity of the disease in those that become infected after vaccination. A reduction in the prevalence and severity of disease in the badger population will reduce the potential for transmission of TB from badgers to cattle.

What vaccine is being used?

The only vaccine that is currently available for use against TB in any species, including humans, is Bacille Calmette– Guérin (BCG). The only difference between the human BCG and BadgerBCG, the UK licensed vaccine for badgers, is that the dose given to badgers is higher than that given to humans.

Is the vaccine safe for use in badgers?

Yes. Scientific research has been carried out which demonstrated that BCG was safe for use in badgers. This was necessary in order for the vaccine to be licensed for use by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

Do you have to vaccinate every badger?

No. Only a proportion of the susceptible population (that is those that are not already infected with bovine TB) need to benefit from the protective effects of the vaccine in order to reduce the prevalence of infection in the population. This is known as herd immunity and works on the principle that if some of the population are protected from the disease it is less likely that an infected individual will come into contact with a susceptible individual, therefore, the disease is less likely to be passed on. Obviously, the higher the proportion of protected individuals there are in a population, the lower the number of animals that could become infected.

How will badgers be vaccinated?

Currently, the only available vaccine is an injectable one. Badgers are trapped in cages, injected with vaccine then released.

Are there any welfare issues with trapping badgers for vaccination?

Cage trapping of badgers has been undertaken for over 30 years. Research has shown that, when trapping is carried out by properly trained and experienced personnel, the number of badgers injured in cage traps is very low, with the majority of those injured only suffering minor abrasions.

Why is it taking so long for vaccines to be widely available when we’ve been vaccinating humans for years?

Whilst the programme of work has been designed to minimise the time required on delivering licensed vaccines, research by its nature takes time and much of the work has to be carried out sequentially. There are defined steps in obtaining a licence, or Marketing Authorisation, from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for vaccines, which include studies to demonstrate both vaccine safety and efficacy. New diagnostic tests for badgers had to be developed initially, starting in 1999, to enable badger vaccine research to begin.

What research has gone into vaccines, how much has been invested and what agencies are involved?

Defra has been funding research into TB vaccines for use in cattle and badgers since 1998 and the total investment in vaccine development has reached more than £30 million. Defra has been working alongside the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, which leads the vaccine research on Defra’s behalf and The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which has over 30 years experience of trapping and injecting badgers. Defra also maintains close links with international researchers particularly in the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand. Defra and the VLA are also working in close cooperation with researchers working on new vaccines for TB in humans.

What is happening with vaccination of wildlife against bovine TB in other countries?

They are currently carrying out research into oral vaccination of badgers in Ireland and injectable and oral vaccination of possums in New Zealand

Why can’t you use oral vaccine bait?

There is research currently underway in the UK in developing oral vaccine bait for use in badgers , the possibility of a usable oral badger vaccine is approximately two years away. the vaccine is as effective as the injectable one an dis currently undergoing safety tests for its licence.

TB or not TB: an answer to the culling question - Irish Times more

What effect does vaccination have on badgers?

Research has demonstrated that vaccination reduces the severity and progression of TB in badgers that were experimentally infected with bovine TB after vaccination. BCG vaccination also reduced the amount of bacteria excreted in urine, faeces and other clinical samples. Such effects in the field are likely to translate into a reduced risk of transmission to cattle.




Lord Krebs

40% of the farms in the hotspot areas remain bovine TB free, and these farms are likely to become infected (due to perturbation) if the cull goes ahead. If the government has to ‘do something’, research into these farms would be a good place to start

MYTH “Badgers need to be trapped before they can be vaccinated and the process has to be repeated annually for many years”

Badgers as with humans willconfer lifelong immunity so we should only need to trap and vaccinate the next generation of badgers each year.

MYTH “the vaccine is not 100 per cent effective in preventing TB and does not make any difference to those animals that are already infected”

It’s not about vaccinating every badger with a 100% efficacious vaccine; it’s about reaching a ‘critical mass’ of vaccinated animals at which point the infection can no longer continue to persist in the population because of insufficient susceptible individuals. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that there will, in ‘hot-spot’ areas, be a reservoir of infection in cattle

“current vaccines, as far as they exist, will not be as effective as culling in reducing the spread of the disease from badgers to cattle”

Vaccination does not result in perturbation. It keeps the badger population stable and will not increase in bovine TB. 40% of the farms in the hotspot areas are bTB free and any culling will see animals perturbate into these farms. Studies have shown that vaccination doesn't’t exacerbate the disease in already infected badgers. Nor does it increase excretion of bacteria or lead to an increased risk of transmission of bovine TB.


Does it fully protect all badgers that are vaccinated?

As with any vaccine, not all vaccinated individuals will be fully protected. However, laboratory studies indicated that in common with other species, BCG vaccination did significantly reduce the overall disease burden. A recent field study of wild badgers showed that of the badgers that tested negative for TB at the outset, vaccination led to a significant reduction in the incidence of positive responses to a blood test that we know is a good indicator of the extent and severity of TB infection.

trap vaccinate