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Horse owners saddled with high costs for Hendra vaccine

The Hendra vaccine, Equivac® HeV, was made available to all horse owners in Queensland in November.
The Hendra vaccine, Equivac® HeV, was made available to all horse owners in Queensland in November. john mccutcheon

HORSE owners are divided as to whether they should fork out the cash for the Hendra virus vaccine.

The vaccine, Equivac® HeV, which was made available to all horse owners in Queensland in November, can be administered by accredited veterinarians.

It aims to stop the spread from horses to humans of the bat-borne virus, which has claimed the lives of four people and 80 horses since first identified in 1994.

Some club members have multiple horses, for them to fork out $120 a vaccine plus bills on top are quite expensive.

The virus was named Hendra virus after the Brisbane suburb where it was first diagnosed. However it didn't hit closer to home until October 2011 when a horse was euthanised after contracting the virus at Beachmere.

So far the vaccine has received a mixed reaction with some horse owners rushing in to get the vaccination and others holding off until they know further information.

Caboolture region veterinarian Dr Deb Rogers of Town and Country Vet Care is no stranger to the vaccine delivering it to hundreds of horses in the region already.

She felt vaccinating against Hendra was very beneficial however she understood why people were holding off for now.

Dr Rogers listed a few barriers that could be stopping owners from vaccinating such as cost and perceived potential health implications.

"I think there will be a lot of people who in hindsight wish they vaccinated their horses," she said. "I'd say 50% were getting vaccinated at the moment but its early days. I don't believe the choice not to vaccinate is purely financial. The horse's health is the horse owner's main priority."

Caboolture Dressage Group president Karen Herald said the club was leaving it to owners to decide for themselves.

"We have some club members with multiple horses, for them to fork out $120 a vaccine plus bills on top are quite expensive for them," Ms Herald said. "As a club we are giving them all the details and getting the facts out."

Ms Herald raised the issue of export horses which could be prevented from leaving the country after the vaccine.

"The risk of not being able to export your horse is stopping a lot of people," she said.

"Top show jumpers and dressage riders have to be careful about what they do with their horses. It's early days yet."

Ms Herald said she was waiting to see what happened with the vaccine before she paid for it herself.

"At the moment I'm not going to, but if a Hendra case were to pop up at Morayfield I would consider it."

For more information on the Hendra virus vaccine log onto dpi.qld.gov.au.

Topics:  hendra vaccine


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