EU set to OK poultry bird flu vaccination

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THE Netherlands and France were expected to be given EU permission today to start vaccinating poultry flocks against bird flu.

Barring last-minute hitches the controversial decision will be taken by EU veterinary experts who have been meeting in Brussels for two days to consider stepping up controls as the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus spreads across Europe.

Vaccination has divided Europe because of disputes about its cost and effectiveness - or lack of it.

There is also serious concern about the potential trade risk for EU export markets for poultry.

But the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health - made up of national veterinary experts from the 25 member states - is expected to decide limited vaccination plans should be given the go-ahead.

Other EU countries wishing to begin vaccination programmes will have to make separate applications for EU-level approval.

Germany, Austria, Denmark and Portugal raised strong objections on the first day of the Committee talks. Britain also voiced concerns about what vaccination could achieve.

The vaccination vote was due as Slovakia became the eighth EU member state to confirm outbreaks of bird flu.