PARLIAMENT

Vaccinating free-ranging chickens not effective in reducing bird flu risk

Vaccinated free-roaming chickens can still be infected by other strains of the virus as they have contact with other wildlife.
Vaccinated free-roaming chickens can still be infected by other strains of the virus as they have contact with other wildlife.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Vaccinating free-ranging chickens against bird flu would not be effective in managing the bird flu risk.

This is because there are many strains of the virus, which is also known to mutate, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon told Parliament yesterday.

"While bird flu vaccinations can provide partial protection against certain strains, the vaccinated chickens can still be infected by other strains, particularly since free-roaming chickens have contact with other wildlife," he said.

Moreover, the chickens will reproduce, and their chicks would not be protected by the same inoculation, he said in response to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked if AVA would consider vaccinating free-ranging chickens against bird flu instead of culling them.

Dr Koh said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will improve its management of animal populations, including free-roaming chickens, through research studies and public engagement.

AVA is conducting a study with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to better understand the ecology and population of selected bird species here, one of which is the free-ranging chicken.

In January, AVA culled chickens in Pasir Ris and Sin Ming in response to noise complaints and to safeguard public health, moves which drew flak from the public.

Yesterday, Dr Koh gave the assurance that AVA will involve stakeholders such as academics, wildlife experts and animal welfare groups in exploring various approaches and solutions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Vaccinating free-ranging chickens not effective in reducing bird flu risk'. Print Edition | Subscribe