Rural protection: LLS animal biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus as part of the response in 2013.
Rural protection: LLS animal biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus as part of the response in 2013.

Vet urges owners to vaccinate horses against Hendra virus

THE Hendra virus vaccine has been so divisive in the Equine community that the Queensland Government started a parliamentary inquiry into the vaccine with a report due to be handed down later this month.

The inquiry has almost 300 submissions from individuals, vets and other stakeholder groups.

South Burnett Vets Dr Chris Braithwaite said although he hadn't given the inquiry into the vaccine a lot of thought, he believed vets facing fines for tending to unvaccinated horses was a rule that needed to change.

"They have to look at that. It's ridiculous. Why should it be our responsibility?" he said.

"We go there to look at the horse, all of the sudden we can be sued if the owner doesn't do what we ask them to do."

He said the bio-security laws meant it vets wouldn't go out to horses who were unvaccinated.

Dr Braithwaite said his vets were still urging people to vaccinate their horses.

He said they had not seen any horses have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

"It's a matter of having priorities right," he said.

Although the had not been any outbreaks of Hendra in the South Burnett, Dr Braithwaite said it could only be a matter of time.

"There are plenty of bats around," he said.

The vaccine starts with three shots initially six weeks apart then once every 12 months from there on out.

He said a lot of the backlash to the vaccine had died down in the area.

"You have to weigh up the cost of losing your child when you get down to dramatic circumstances," he said. "The cost versus the cost of everyday looking after the horse."

Dr Braithwaite thinks that horses that compete would eventually all have to be vaccinated to be allowed into competition.

"Recommend that people who compete get their horses vaccinated," he said.

"It's a very effective vaccine one of the best around." Hendra virus is a bio-security level four virus.

Queensland Health, bio-security Queensland and Workplace Health and Safety have prosecuted vets who have treated sick and unvaccinated horses and did not adhere to the strict guidelines when it comes to treating Hendra.