THERE'S been strong national interest in a new vaccine that protects horses and their owners from the deadly Hendra virus.About 13,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered to horses since it went on the market last month, with 4000 of those in Queensland where most Hendra cases have occurred.
Veterinarian Stephanie Armstrong, from Pfizer Animal Health, said it was a great initial response that shows horse owners understand the serious threat the virus poses.
But she says it will take some time to build up a high level of herd immunity across the nation.
"Horse owners really understand that this is the only tool available to them to prevent infection in horses," she said.
The Hendra virus is endemic across Australia and is spread from flying foxes to horses, who can in turn infect humans.
Since it was first detected in 1994, seven people have been infected with the virus, with four dying.
Dr Armstrong said a permit system set up around the vaccine was also yielding valuable data.
Vets are required to keep detailed records, meaning authorities have access to data about vaccination rates that will be useful in dealing with future cases.
"The vaccine is certainly a good insurance policy for a disease that can have devastating consequences for businesses, and the loss of horse and human life."
She said the rollout of the vaccine had also shown it was extremely safe, with only a handful of extremely minor reactions recorded in the 13,000 horses given the shots.
The vaccine was developed at the CSIRO, with the involvement of Pfizer Animal Health, which produces and distributes the vaccine.