Avian influenza or H5N2 virus affected over 48 million birds in early 2015 following a massive outbreak. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave Harrisvaccine's developmental Avian Influenza Vaccine conditional license for testing and emergency use.
"While the USDA said that it has not approved any vaccine yet, Harrisvaccine would immediately get a licensed serum when the USDA makes a statement," said Joel Harris, Harrisvaccines' sales and marketing vice president.
The conditionally-approved vaccine can be used for emergencies and testing. With the utilization of Harrisvaccine's rapid response technology called SirraVax SM, the vaccine can be modified and updated when a new strain of H5N2 virus develops. This is the government's first big step in battling the new strain of bird flu. The grant of the conditional license means the company should be prepared for rapid production following an official USDA approval.
"The creation, testing and regulatory approval of the vaccine was a real joint effort by the USDA's Agriculture Research Service, the Center for Veterinary Biologics and Harrisvaccines," said the company's Head of Research and Development Dr. Mark Mogler. The gene and testing facilities needed for the vaccine was provided by the Agriculture Research Service, added Mogler.
Initial tests showed the Avian Influenza Vaccine is 93 perfect effective in treating day-old chicks. Tests using adult hens showed that the vaccine is 95 percent effective. "Further efficacy and potency studies in chickens and turkeys are ongoing," said Jodi French, head of manufacturing and USDA liaison for Harrisvaccines.
The need for an effective vaccine is crucial in the containment efforts being rolled out. The vaccine's initial diagnostic tests proved that it can properly identify the treated birds from those that are still infected. This identifier is important to contain the influenza in poultry trading.
Today, the Avian Influenza gravely affects poultry not to mention 50 million chickens and turkeys that have died of it ever since. The extremely infectious virus if caught by one or two birds can contaminate an entire flock within one or two days. This year, the state of Iowa was hit hardest, affecting over 40 percent of its egg-laying population.
In 2014, Harrisvaccine's state-of-the-art technology received the USDA license for a vaccine used to treat the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that killed millions of pigs. This process is deemed safer because it does not use live viruses.