The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has received several enquiries recently about the potential use of mRNA vaccines in livestock.
Many of these enquiries are in response to misinformation circulating on the internet, such as articles implying that the Australian Government is advocating to vaccinate livestock with mRNA vaccines and that it is not safe to consume animal products derived from these vaccinated livestock.
These statements are false.
Authorisation of mRNA vaccines for use in animals in Australia would require regulatory approvals from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and, depending on the nature of the vaccine, other regulatory bodies.
mRNA vaccines for animals are in the research and development phase worldwide and are a promising technology. We have seen through the COVID-19 pandemic that mRNA vaccines can be made rapidly, can be easily adapted to protect against new virus strains, and can allow for diagnostic testing to identify whether an animal is naturally infected or vaccinated. With a proper regulatory program in place to ensure their safety, these vaccines may one day prove to be safe and efficacious for use in Australian livestock.
The Australian Government, together with the New South Wales and Queensland governments and Meat & Livestock Australia, are investing in a $4.95 million project to support research into mRNA vaccines for livestock, including for lumpy skin disease.
The APVMA is actively engaging with industry, researchers and state and territory governments in its regulatory approach to veterinary mRNA vaccine technology. Currently there are no mRNA vaccines authorised for use in animals in Australia, and the Australian government is not advocating to vaccinate livestock with mRNA vaccines.
Should a successful mRNA veterinary vaccine be developed, a rigorous risk-based assessment process would be undertaken before the vaccine would be available for use in livestock in Australia.
In anticipation of the development of these vaccines, the APVMA is developing a regulatory framework for mRNA veterinary vaccines that will include information on data requirements. This framework will ensure that any new vaccine is effective, safe, and appropriate for use in animals. It will also ensure that it is safe for people who consume animal products derived from vaccinated livestock; safe for the environment; and safe for the people who administer the vaccine to animals.
Even if the research and development for mRNA vaccines is successful, it will take time before vaccines are commercially available, subject to APVMA approval processes.