I have had a couple of fanciers from Northern Ireland phone me with sorry tales. These men had paid enough for young birds from a well established stud in Eire and had no worries about their health and suitability for the purpose for which they were intended. They looked healthy and worth the money being paid. The vaccination history was in order. The relevant documentation was available to prove that they had been protected against paramyxovirus, in accordance with British law. The fancier told me that the young birds were passing watery droppings and a few were looking over their shoulders, presumably for the grim reaper that might be sneaking up, or star gazing, presumably trying to get in touch with God, to see if there were any vacancies in his celestial dovecote, as they might soon be making a personal visitation. My sub-conscious had already diagnosed a high probability of P.M.V and this was scuppered when he told me, ‘It can’t be, they’ve been vaccinated’. Now, this was a problem.
All three, licensed M.A.F.F. approved vaccines, work to protect the vast majority of vaccinated birds. Every batch of vaccine is put through a series of biological tests to approve its safety and efficacy. Individuals may not develop protective antibodies, through faulty injection technique (like the dose missed), incompetent immune systems of the birds (like that individual was poorly or having steroids or too young). Perhaps the young bird had interfering antibodies from a really vaccinated hen, that interfered with the vaccine response. Perhaps the young bird was under so much stress at the time of vaccination that it was producing a lot of its own corticosteroids (endogenous steroids) and these inhibited the immune response. The last possibility, of course is, perhaps that the vaccine is useless. It may have been stored in the warmth of sunlight, which will de-activate it, or the vaccine was beyond its ‘use by date’. Since P.M.V is a ‘notifiable disease’ the M.A.F.F. will be called into these ‘suspicious’ circumstances and a quick blood sample will determine whether or not these birds have been vaccinated properly, according to law and the terms of the certificate that has been signed by a ‘responsible’ person.
We should perhaps learn something from this experience;
- A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on;
- A written contract (certificate) is only as honest as the person who signed it.
- P.M.V is still about, despite the vaccination programme that, by and large, has been observed and adhered to.
- If you pay a lot of money for a pigeon make sure it is correctly vaccinated.
- You vaccinate pigeons to stop them catching this distressing and disruptive disease.
Extract from British Homing World (June 4th, 1999) Veterinary Corner with David Palmer.