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Coronavirus: Horses who miss annual flu booster must restart

Equestrian sport’s governing bodies are to look at a “transition period” on six-monthly flu vaccines once the coronavirus pandemic restrictions are lifted, as racing moves to annual boosters.

In a statement today (2 April) the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), in conjunction with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), said it has approved a proposal regarding the vaccination schedule for equine influenza in competition horses competing under its member bodies.

“The move has been made in order to help riders, owners and vets tackle the significant logistical challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and provide clarity for all,” the statement read.

“All competitive disciplines under the BEF umbrella currently operate a requirement for an annual booster every 12 months after an initial course of two injections and the first booster injection. This will remain the case throughout 2020, which means that any horse who goes beyond its annual renewal date will be required to start again.”

The statement added initial vaccination intervals for primary and booster vaccinations will also remain in place as normal.

“Those member bodies who have rules in place for six-monthly booster injections before competing will look to implement a transition period to allow riders to bring vaccinations up to date, once the current suspension of activity is lifted,” continued the statement.

“This will be communicated to the members of each governing body in due course, when it becomes clearer when competition activity is able to resume.”

The BHA has moved to a 12-month booster vaccination requirement, an increase on nine months, to cover horses racing in the UK for the remainder of 2020.

Interim BEF chief executive Iain Graham said the length of the coronavirus pandemic is unknown, but the BEF wanted to provide those who competed with its member bodies “some clarity” on the organisation’s current position.

“Equine vets are under strict guidance to carry out emergency work only at present – and as booster vaccinations are classified as routine injections, they will not be carried out,” he said.

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“We appreciate some owners will fall outside the required 12-month period and will therefore need to start again, which is unfortunate. However, we cannot allow vaccinations to go beyond 12 months as the efficacy of the vaccine cannot be guaranteed beyond that date.”

Mr Graham added each member body will be outlining its six-monthly booster requirements ahead of competition restarting.

“I’d like to thank our colleagues in BEVA and BHA for their collaboration on this so that much of the equine industry is aligned,” he said.

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