African horse sickness: Onderstepoort Biological Products leaves horse owners in the lurch

Issued by Janho Engelbrecht MP – DA Constituency Head for Mogale City
20 May 2022 in News

By now everyone that tried to get hold of AHS vaccines, produced by OBP, can attest to its unavailability. This comes at the back of a similar situation during the last vaccination season when only a limited amount of vaccines were made available at various intervals by OBP. The new AHS vaccination season starts on 1 June 2022.

It is fair to assume that whatever the problems was with vaccine production at OBP, it would have been resolved in time to meet the demand for AHS vaccines before the onset of the new season. However, this seems not to be the case. Democratic Alliance MP, Janho Engelbrecht, took the issue up with the Minister of Agriculture, land reform and rural development, Ms Thoko Didisa. Various Parliamentary questions in this regard were put to the Minister (see here) and a Parliamentary Motion was adopted (see here).

After an investigation by Mr. Janho Engelbrecht, it became clear that all was not well at OBP. He wrote a letter to Minister Didiza (see here), raising concerns, requesting ministerial intervention and recommended solutions with the 1 June commencement date in mind.

Up to date no feedback has been forthcoming from either the Minister or her Department on the issues raised. Subsequently a further set of Parliamentary questions had been submitted (see here) to get clarity on the status of AHS vaccines.

Minister Didiza made remarks on OBP in the recent budget speech she delivered on 12 May 2022. She said “The strengthening of our vaccine production capacity is more urgent now than ever before. The Onderstepoort Biological Products Company requires deliberate support, to ensure the completion of its GMP facility. It is important to ensure that information on availability and non-availability of vaccine is given timeously to producers.”

The sentiments stated in her speech did unfortunately not apply to AHS vaccines it seems. After a lengthy and challenging investigation by Mr. Janho Engelbrecht, the following information related to AHS vaccines can be communicated;

  1. OBP should have 25 000 doses of AHS vaccines available around the end of June/beginning of July.
  2. These doses would in all probability be distributed exclusively within the AHS exclusion zone. It is important to note that no AHS vaccines can be administered within this area after 31 October.
  3. A further 120 000+ vaccines should be available around August.
  4. OBP has apparently acquired a functioning freeze-drying unit but it is not in use yet.