Thanks to Dr Colin Walker for this very informative advisory.
1) In the vaccine trials developed by Dr Peter Scott of the CCEAD, implemented by me and my staff at the Melbourne Bird Veterinary Clinic and sponsored by the pigeon fanciers of Australia, two vaccine protocols were tried. One group of pigeons was given a live V4 vaccine and 4 weeks later a killed La Sota vaccine. A second group was given two La Sota vaccinations 4 weeks apart. Birds in both groups formed a protective immunity but the level of immunity was higher in the group that was given the two La Sota vaccinations and this therefore is the recommended program to follow.
2) Through the vaccine trial no birds became unwell or showed a reaction at the inoculation site.
3) To protect pigeons against Paramyxovirus, birds are given 2 doses of 0.5ml of vaccine 4 weeks apart the first year they are vaccinated and then a single 0.5ml booster each year.
4) The vaccine is a killed vaccine so there is no worry that vaccinated birds can infect non-vaccinated birds as a result of vaccination. It is thought however that if vaccinated birds come in contact with birds infected with the disease, although they form sufficient immunity to stop them getting sick or dying, they can still catch the virus from birds with the disease. After several weeks they clear the virus without showing any symptoms themselves but can transmit the disease to non-vaccinated birds during this time.
5) There are 2 essentially identical vaccines available in Australia. ‘Poulvac’ made by Pfizer and ‘Newcavac’ made by Intervet MSD. Both vaccines however are not always available.
6) The vaccine comes in a 500ml bottle, enough for 1000 doses ie enough to do 500 pigeons, twice 4 weeks apart. The vaccine should be stored at 2-8C. Freezing destroys the vaccine.
7) The vaccine bottle can be re-used after it has been opened. The vaccine loses its effectiveness if it becomes warm for an extended period or is contaminated with germs. I recommend using an 18 gauge needle and a 10ml syringe to remove the vaccine in a sterile way from the bottle for transfer to a vaccination gun, another sterile bottle or to vaccinate the birds directly. The vaccine bottle should be returned to the refrigerator as soon as possible.
8) Because of the difficulty in keeping the vaccine between 2-8C we are hesitant to ship vaccine and recommend the vaccine be collected at reception in an esky.
9) Birds can be vaccinated simultaneously with pigeon pox and PMV vaccines.
Advice to Victorian Racing Fanciers
The disease in Victoria continues to be regularly diagnosed. All fanciers should vaccinate their birds ASAP.
Advice to NSW, SA and QLD Racing Fanciers
For fanciers wishing to protect their lofts from PMV, all stock birds should be vaccinated prior to breeding (twice four weeks apart). If necessary however, birds can be vaccinated after pairing. The vaccine has no effect on fertility. Evidence from overseas shows that youngsters from vaccinated birds are protected from the disease for the first 2-3 weeks of life. Youngsters should have their first vaccination at 4 weeks of age ie at weaning and receive their second vaccination in batches 4-6 weeks later. Given the current increased level of risk with a second diagnosis of PMV in Sydney, NSW fanciers in particular should also consider vaccinating their race team. In SA and QLD some fanciers may find it hard to justify potentially upsetting a race team, that is going well, by catching and injecting them, given the current level of risk. The vaccine trial, however, has indicated no general or local reaction to vaccination when done properly. There therefore appears to be no veterinary reason not to vaccinate the race team for fanciers wishing to protect their race birds. Unless vaccinated, race teams remain at risk of catching the disease from other race birds in race baskets that are incubating the disease and also feral pigeons. It is worth noting that government authorities have indicated that state borders are more likely to be opened if all pigeons are vaccinated. It is my understanding that the SA/Vic border will be open for pigeon movement from the end of September and so SA fanciers should consider inoculating their birds before this time. In NSW a permit from the DPI is required to obtain the vaccine. NSW fanciers must supply information (name, address, number of birds to be vaccinated, type of vaccine to be used and anticipated date of vaccination) to the DPI and also receive written instructions from a vet about the vaccination technique. Once this is done, permits can be obtained from G Arzey of the DPI on 02 4640 6402 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice to Show Fanciers
All fanciers should consider vaccinating their birds ASAP. The vaccine is safe, effective and cheap. Vaccinating all fancy pigeons means that it is more likely that interstate and National shows can occur.
If there is more we can do to help you please phone us at the Melbourne Bird Veterinary Clinic on 03 9764 9000.