White House considering new poultry vaccine to protect flocks from bird flu; Local farm weighs in

The Biden administration is considering a new poultry vaccine to protect flocks from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

News Center 7′s Kayla McDermott visited a farm and asked the owners their thoughts about giving their flocks a possible shot in the future.

The bird flu has severely impacted the country since the start of 2022. According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), 789 flocks in 47 states have tested positive for HPAI. Of the 789 cases, 321 cases are in commercial flocks and 468 cases are in backyard flocks, with a total of 58.60 million birds affected.

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In Ohio, no cases of HPAI have been reported since January 18 to the USDA. Reported cases of HPAI have slowly decreased in the United States since December 2022.

Across the country, more than 50 million birds have been killed by HPAI due to the high mortality rate associated with this flu strain.

“The current solution to the bird flu is to identify them and kill them all. And that’s why we’ve got 58 million birds euthanized,” said John Hancock, owner of Happy Wife Acres.

Birds are pasture raised at Happy Wife Acres, so they are not cooped up all day as they can be at large commercial poultry farms.

“They’re crowded, they’re stressed and if they get it, everyone’s gonna get it,” said Hancock of the easy spreadability of HPAI in commercial farms.

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The outbreak of HPAI has created egg production shortages which has caused the increased prices of eggs at the store.

“They don’t just kill the one. They assume everybody has it, and that really puts a hurt on egg prices,” said Hancock.

The Biden administration says creating a vaccine against the bird flu is one approach they’re considering.

“If they can come up with a vaccine that helps with the bird flu, I think it’s wonderful,” said Hancock.

A statement released by the White House National Security Council said, “There are a range of options the United States regularly considers when there is any outbreak ... Right now, we are focused on promoting and enhancing high impact biosafety practices and procedures.”

There is one potential concern at Happy Wife Acres with a new vaccine.

“I think it should be a concern if you’re injecting birds, that it actually is effective, and it doesn’t affect the end user which is humans,” said Andrea Hancock, owner of Happy Wife Acres.

The Hancocks said vaccine or not, they aren’t overly concerned about the bird flu affecting their flock.

“We should have more natural immunities. So we’re not worried about it here. So we have our chickens all the time,” Andrea said.

At Happy Wife Acres, they would like to see the results of the vaccine on other farms before ever bringing it there.