Paramyxovirus – making sure you use only authorised vaccines: Advice from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
We understand that many of you at this time of year will have vaccinated, or are about to vaccinate, your pigeons against paramyxovirus, which can significantly harm their health.
Pigeon paramyxovirus infection is a notifiable disease. That means if you suspect it you must tell the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.
To clear up any confusion about the vaccines you should be using, the VMD – the Government agency which regulates veterinary medicines in the UK – has set out what you must do to comply with the law when using medicines, including vaccines, for your pigeons.
Anyone using a medicine on a pigeon and indeed any animal must use a UK authorised medicine*. If you are unsure if the medicine is authorised in the UK you should consult the VMD’s online Product Information Database which has an A-Z listing of all UK authorised veterinary medicines. You can also select the target species ‘pigeon’ to search for all veterinary medicines which can be used in pigeons – there are currently 19.
Using an unauthorised medicine is an offence against the Veterinary Medicines Regulations. Illegal medicines can be seized and users and suppliers may be prosecuted.
The only time when you may use a medicine that is not authorised in the UK is when a suitable medicine is not authorised or available in the UK to treat the specific condition. On these occasions, your vet – and only your vet – may :
• use another medicine authorised in the UK for another species or condition that may be suitable or
• apply to the VMD to import a suitable medicine
The VMD will accept applications to import medicines including vaccines if there is no suitable medicine available or authorised in the UK to treat the specific condition. The VMD is aware that some pigeon owners may be tempted to treat their pigeons with, or improve their performance by, using unauthorised medicines such as antibiotics and steroids. As well as presenting a risk to your birds’ health and that of the handlers, this is illegal and you may be prosecuted.
* Some medicines for homing pigeons that contain certain ingredients do not have to have a marketing authorisation. For details about the legal exemptions for homing pigeons and other small pet animals see here.
Note: There is guidance on the gov.uk website on how to spot paramyxovirus infection in pigeons, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.