Compensation fight over strangles vaccine case

  • A horse owner from Buckinghamshire is seeking compensation from the manufacturers of the strangles vaccine after her pony contracted the disease shortly after being vaccinated against it last summer.

    The vaccine, Equilis StrepE, was withdrawn from the European market in January by maker Intervet UK Ltd owing to a separate “quality control issue” (news, 18 January).

    Ellie II, an 11.2hh mare who was five at the time of vaccination, developed strangles-like symptoms approximately seven days after Equilis StrepE was given in July 2006. Ellie had to have the injection as a condition of being kept at livery at her 52-box yard.

    Three weeks after the vaccination, and in documents seen by H&H, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) confirmed to owner Sue Coleman that Ellie had contracted the disease from the vaccine. The mare was put into a quarantine yard.

    Mrs Coleman told H&H: “The vets did various tests and nasal swabs, which showed Ellie didn’t have the field strain of strangles, but the strain from the vaccination.”

    Mrs Coleman, who works as a freelance riding instructor, contacted Intervet immediately after the diagnosis was confirmed. The firm paid all Ellie’s vet bills — a sum of around £900 — and offered to rehome her if the livery yard would not have her back from quarantine.

    “At first, I thought this was good service,” admitted Mrs Coleman. “But then it went on for so long that we started losing money. Even though she wasn’t infectious, Ellie had to be quarantined for three months, as the yard wanted three months’ worth of clear swabs.

    “I lost a lot of teaching work, what with the stigma of strangles, so my husband had to look after Ellie before and after work.”

    Mrs Coleman, who got another pony on loan for her children to ride during the summer, said that Ellie, although recovered now, became “quite wild and unhappy” during her time in isolation.

    Mrs Coleman is currently seeking £7,500 compensation from Intervet for her loss of earnings, travel expenses, a saddle she had made for Ellie before she contracted strangles that no longer fits because of weight loss, and general inconvenience.

    Intervet declined to discuss Ellie’s case with H&H and said that the case is ongoing.

    In January 2006, a Kent yard received £8,700 compensation from Intervet as a goodwill gesture after 19 horses contracted strangles despite being vaccinated against the disease (news, 5 January 2006).

    When the Equilis StrepE vaccine was withdrawn from the market earlier in the year, Intervet UK general manager Jim Hungerford told H&H he expected it to return within two to three months.

    But a statement released from Intervet UK to H&H last week gave no detail of the vaccine’s return.

    It read: “We are carrying out research to restore the vaccine to the market as soon as possible. We will provide horse owners with support to start the vaccination schedule again when it is available.”

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 April, ’07)

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