Far too many people depend on livestock as their primary means of livelihood, especially the rural smallholder farmers. Food security and global health security are directly affected by the health status of animals at every given time. In other words, the health of the livestock population is one of the leading determinants of global health and food security as a result of the human- animal ecosystem interface. This article emphasizes the contributions of adequate livestock vaccination to global health and food security.
Over the years, public and animal health have been protected, the need for use of antibiotics for the care of domestic animals have been reduced, animal suffering lessened and production of animal protein to feed the increasing human population is more efficient. All these are the positives from availability and widespread distribution of animal vaccines. Irrespective of these, a huge gap still exists among smallholders and marginalized population in the access, availability and uptake of animal vaccines to protect their livestock, hence, their folks. Cases have been made about how the loss of animal(s) translates to a potential loss of a human life. A typical example is of a rural smallholder farmer who depends on livestock production and loses her livestock to vaccine-preventable disease, and the child falls ill. She might not be able to afford quality healthcare for the sick child as a result of the loss of her means of livelihood, hence a reduced chance of survival of the child. In essence, there is a strong interaction between the human-animal ecosystem which makes it safe to say a healthy animal population is a healthy human population.
One health approach is the perfect panacea to achieve global health and a safer world, and the approach promotes keeping animal population safe. Disease prevention through vaccination provides optimum safety for animals. According to the Director General of OIE, “Pathogens of animal origin are an important and growing global threat to human and animal health, food security, food safety, poverty reduction and biodiversity”. In prescribing a solution to this, he further reiterated that “The evolution of new and re-emerging pathogens is the consequence of a multitude of factors and, in combination with the potential for deliberate threat, can only be addressed through a multi-faceted and well-coordinated global strategy”. This global strategy is evidenced by the FAO, WHO and OIE tripartite agreement on transboundary animal diseases among other common threats to global health security.
Another interesting consideration to emphasize the contribution of adequate livestock vaccination to global health security is the manner in which climate change and human activities are redefining the patterns and spread of livestock diseases. As a result of climate change, pathogens find their way to new ecological zones through vectors, threatening existing tranquil in these zones. Activities that now lengthens and complicates livestock industry’s supply chains due to globalization and trade liberalization now pose
additional challenges to food safety and animal health. If animal vaccines are not abundantly available to prevent livestock diseases in a globally challenging time like this, outbreak of known and new diseases can become what the world will have to continuously deal with.
Inasmuch as the world is beginning to take responsibility for the availability of vaccines for preventing animal diseases, a few hurdles still need to be crossed to enable the typical smallholder farmer secure access to it. Affordability is one of such challenge for rural households. Also, access to animal health workers to administer the vaccines when required and limited information about vaccination campaigns all constrain the smallholder farmers in accessing animal vaccines. Putting these challenges in perspective, strategies that will promote uptake of animal vaccines to the last mile are required to ensure a safe human and animal population as indicated earlier. Breaking it down, international and national actors must begin to focus interventions on adoption and sustainable uptake of vaccines for livestock by smallholder farmers. Local production of animal vaccines by national and regional manufacturers should also be promoted, especially vaccines against diseases of interest in developing countries only, to reduce production cost and make it more affordable for the smallholder farmers.
Lastly, it is worthy of note that for the sustainable development goals of food security and global health to be achieved, one health approach that considers the human and animal ecosystem interface must be employed. Access to animal vaccines also must be improved and various stakeholders must come together to ensure that vaccine adoption and uptake by the last mile is achieved. Interestingly, the European Union funded Livestock disease surveillance knowledge integration (LIDISKI) project have recently committed to build local capacity of the National Veterinary Research Institute to produce affordable animal vaccines for smallholder farmers while enhancing the distribution network across nine (9) states in Nigeria by training field actors to reach the last mile. The project has been designed to also ease disease surveillance activities and reduce incidence of two major livestock diseases (ND in poultry and PPR in sheep and goats) through the efforts of various stakeholders, thereby improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers.