The Red Meat Industry Forum is so concerned about possible shortages in vaccines to prevent and treat four serious livestock diseases that it obtained a court order forcing Onderstepoort Biological Products to regularly report to them.
The High Court in Pretoria ordered Onderstepoort to provide the forum – which represents the interests of the red meat industry in South Africa – with a schedule of the available quantities of vaccines relating to the notifiable diseases of Brucellosis, Rift Valley Fever, Blue Tongue and African Horse Sickness.
The state-owned Onderstepoort, which produces vaccines for the prevention and treatment of livestock diseases, was also ordered to provide the forum with updated information on the vaccines on a monthly basis.
The forum’s attorney, Amish Kika, said in court papers the forum’s understanding that there was a shortage of vaccines available for the treatment of the four diseases had prompted it to apply to Onderstepoort for the information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
The forum was concerned that if there was an outbreak of one of the diseases and there was a shortage of sufficient vaccines, there was a likelihood that its members’ herds, the agricultural sector and the food security of South Africa would be seriously threatened.
The forum at first applied informally for the information, but was merely told that the vaccines in relation to the four diseases “were available” and had been distributed “to the entire country”.
Not satisfied with this assurance, the forum then lodged a formal application for more details but received no communication. Kika said the information sought was of great importance not only for the forum and its members, but also for the nation as a whole as it was required to protect the country’s food security and the national herd.
Information about stockpiles, production and availability of vaccines to prevent and treat animals susceptible to the diseases ought to be accessible to the public so potential health risks could be identified early on and steps taken to rectify them, he said.