China cracks down on illegal vaccines as swine fever risks mount

by BLOOMBERG / pic by AFP

CHINA issued a stark warning about the “endless risks” of using illegal African swine fever vaccines as the country tries to fight a new outbreak while still recovering from the devastating impact of the virus.

“African swine fever is still a major risk factor that affects our country’s pig production,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement on Monday, pledging to intensify a crackdown on illegal vaccines.

“Up until now, no country in the world has approved the production, sale and use of African swine fever vaccine,” the ministry said, adding that any form of this sold in the market is fake. “Once used, it may cause endless risks.”

The statement highlights China’s concern over the latest outbreak of a disease that authorities thought was under control. While the farm ministry is promoting a full recovery in pig numbers by June this year following the 2018-19 outbreak that wiped out almost half of the country’s hog population, some analysts say the second half of 2022 is more likely.

The ministry’s comments also follow the emergence of new strains of African swine fever, which were reportedly linked to the use of unlicensed vaccines. The new variants tend to be milder and harder to detect, complicating efforts to bring the disease under control in the world’s largest pork industry.

“Not only will fake vaccines not protect pigs from African swine fever, they will also pollute the farm and surrounding environment,” the ministry said. The use of gene-deletion vaccine can cause “long-term, large-scale” infections that are hard to eliminate, seriously harming the interest of the farm, it added.

The government will have “zero tolerance” for those who conduct research, production and sales of illegal African swine fever vaccine and will severely punish these people. The ministry is offering a reward of as much as 30,000 yuan ($4,600) to those who report such activities.