MARCH 7, 2008: The battle against bluetongue across Europe has stepped up a gear after emergency strategies were submitted to the EU for approval.

The EU is now expected to approve emergency vaccination plans from Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain.The European Commission has agreed funding of €400 million to cover vaccination and part of the cost of administration for approved schemes. The UK has not applied for the funding, as the EU claims its strategy will not ensure mass vaccination and therefore does not qualify.Also, limited money would be available for the UK, and if it did apply, the money would also have a number of conditions attached, which Defra claims would slow down the vaccination process.Last month, the French Agriculture Ministry revealed its strategy for controlling bluetongue, having ordered over 40 million doses of vaccine.French livestock poses the greatest threat to the UK this summer, with virus-carrying midges most likely to arrive from France, and a vaccination strategy will go some way to allaying farmers fears of the disease coming in again across the Channel.However, industry leaders in France and the UK have stressed that vaccination will only control the disease in the short-term and will not be a quick-fix solution.A sustained, successful programme of vaccination in France and in the rest of Europe is believed to be the only method of eradicating the disease in the long term.As the first EU country to order vaccine, placing an order for 22.5 million doses with Intervet, the UK is expected to be one of the earliest to start, with the first batch of vaccines due in May.

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