The first wild badger being vaccinated with licensed BadgerBCG in May 2010. Image credit J. Judge (APHA)

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Bovine tuberculosis is caused by infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis. Badgers can be involved in the transmission of this bacteria to cattle, representing an animal health and economic burden to the farming industry and government. An injectable vaccine can be used in badgers to help reduce risks of becoming infected and onward transmission. This vaccine has been available since 2010 but so far its use has been fairly limited.

This paper examines progress in the deployment of badger vaccination in England by Government and non-Government groups. We use data from these operations to explore the practicalities of badger vaccination including the efficiency and seasonality of badger trapping for purposes of vaccination, and what proportion of the badger population can be vaccinated using current methods. We also present findings from interviews with individuals who have been involved in badger vaccination to reveal their motivations and perceived barriers to further adoption of this approach.

The findings of this paper are particularly timely given that badger vaccination is identified as a key component of the UK Government’s 2020 strategy for achieving bovine TB free status for England.