Pfizer working to secure strangles vaccine

11:01 PM 16 Sep 2008 NZST
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A typical case of Strangles
A typical case of Strangles

Pfizer New Zealand has gone all out to boost its supplies of strangles vaccine for horse owners against unprecedented demand in Canterbury. Publicity around a recent outbreak of the disease in the region has seen demand for Pfizer's Equivac vaccines surge to unprecedented levels.

Strangles is a bacterial disease easily diagnosed by the enlargement of lymph glands under the jaw, loss of appetite, gummy eyes and high temperatures. Generally horses recover well from the disease with antibiotic treatment.

"Our sales through equine vets are up 1600% for this month alone and we face the issue of falling short on supply in light of such significant lift in demand," said Pfizer's equine business manager Catherine Fawcett-McNaughton. The usual demand of around 300 vaccinations per month had rocketed up to 7000 already this month.

Pfizer New Zealand has air freighted additional supplies from its Australian vaccine facility, along with vaccine held in storage there. A special processing run of Equivac Sand Equivac 2 in 1 has also been given production priority.

Despite this effort the company estimates supplies will still fall 5000 short until the vaccine has been processed later in October.

Because of their biological nature vaccines have a long lead time for production, and are not able to be quickly manufactured in response to unexpected disease outbreaks.

It is suspected the disease was bought into the Canterbury region via an infected horse from the North Island being transported undiagnosed.

Pfizer has been criticised by some in equine circles for failing to meet demand.

However Fawcett-McNaughton said Canterbury had not experienced a strangles outbreak for over 10 years, making it a difficult disease to stock up for.

"You face a double edged sword providing a vaccine for a disease like this. On one hand we want to have supplies available, but on the other you cannot hold too much for a disease that is not that common. Vaccines have a very limited shelf life and their quality is compromised if held too long."

Some horse owners were only part way through the three-shot injection course for strangles when supplies ran low. Fawcett-McNaughton said the efficacy of the vaccine should not be compromised by a longer than usual gap between injections.

Ideally vaccination was the best approach to preventing strangles, but in light of the shortage there were steps horse owners could take to minimise the risk of contracting the disease.

Strangles thrives in dense horse populations and detection can be difficult until the incubation period is over.

"We advise stud owners in particular to quarantine new arrivals for three weeks. The disease has an incubation period of around 14 days, which makes it easily spread beforeit is detected. Therefore quarantine is the safest approach."

In summary, Fawcett-McNaughton also added "Pfizer is working very hard to get as much vaccine on the ground as soon as is physically possible and we will be taking full advantage of our close relationship with equine vets to keep them informed on the vaccines' progress."

For more information please contact Catherine Fawcett-McNaughton,

Pfizer New Zealand Equine Business Manager (09) 638-0000,

email: catherine.fawcettmcnaughton@pfizer.comENDS

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