Sheep farmers can start vaccination campaign against bluetongue


A campaign to vaccinate around a million sheep against the insect-borne bluetongue virus is expected to start in days now agriculture minister Piet Adema as given the go-ahead to a new vaccine.

The bluetongue virus was first identified on four Dutch sheep farms in early September last year and spread to hundreds of farms nationwide. It was the first time since 2009 that the disease, which does not pose a threat to humans, has been found in the Netherlands.

Bluetongue is spread by midges, not by direct contact between animals, and farmers have been told to use insect repellents to stop the disease from being passed on.

Contrary to bird flu, foot and mouth disease or mad cow disease, no animals will have to be culled as a result of the disease, which is characterised by high fever, swelling of the lips and red mucous membranes in the mouth and tongue.

Although none of the animals have had to be culled hundreds of sheep have died from the disease.

Some million doses of the Spanish-produced vaccine will be available in days followed by another million within two weeks for a second round of vaccinations.

“The last months have been terrible for sheep and sheep farmers alike. (..) I am happy that we now have a safe and effective vaccine,” the minister said in a briefing to MPs.

Farmers’ organisation LTO said they were surprised at the speed with which the vaccine had been approved. Saskia Duives of the LTO’s sheep farming department said she “danced for joy” at the announcement.

“This is fantastic news. We thought it would take much longer. We were afraid we would not be in time to prevent another, even more serious outbreak as the gnats are getting more active with the rising temperatures,” she said.

Duives said a rapid vaccination campaign will prevent many animals from getting seriously ill.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation