EFSA Opinion on the risk of rabies introduction into the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Malta as a consequence of abandoning serological tests measuring protective antibodies to rabies

The Animal Health and Welfare Panel (AHAW) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended that rabies vaccination should remain the key requirement for pet movement between Member States. Any additional measures should depend on whether rabies occurs in the pet population where pets reside before the first vaccination and be adapted to the level of rabies risk.

The Animal Health and Welfare Panel (AHAW) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has today published an assment of the risk of rabies introduction into the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Malta as a consequence of abandoning serological tests measuring protective antibodies to rabies. Currently the above Member States are applying additional national requirements during a transitional period which will end in July 2008, consisting mainly of a post-vaccination test[1] in combination with a waiting time before entry. In its scientific evaluation, EFSA’s AHAW Panel has assessed if serological testing could be abandoned without increasing the risk of introducing rabies into these countries. The risk assessment was requested by the European Commission in order to assist in the preparation of a report to the European Parliament and Council on the need to maintain the serological testing.

The AHAW Panel recommends the use of authorised rabies vaccines in line with their approved conditions of use as the key requirement for pet movement between all Member States and that further protective measures should be adapted to the appropriate risk level as follows:

a) serological testing does not offer any additional reassurance against rabies for pets coming from any country, including Member States, with a negligible prevalence of rabies in the domestic pet population[2] and going to Member States with a negligible prevalence of rabies;

b) vaccination followed by a second injection of vaccine[3] or a serological test will ensure full confidence of protection and eliminate the risk of pets becoming infected when going to Member States with a non-negligible risk of rabies;

c) a waiting time can be used to reduce the risk of transmitting rabies by pets incubating rabies at the time of first vaccination. If a waiting time of more than 100 days is deemed necessary to reduce risk, a second injection of vaccine3 or a serological test could also be applied.

The full text of the report is available on the EFSA website at:

[1] Serological test measuring protective antibodies to rabies (a level of 0.5 IU/ml or above is currently the only available measure of an immune response conferring protection against rabies)
[2] Given an acceptable risk limit of 1 infected pet per million pets per year, this would exclude Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Slovak Republic and Poland. For further details see Figure 2-4 of the Opinion for prevalence estimates.
[3] Given 4 to 6 weeks after the first injection in order to eliminate the risk of the pet failing to reach the required antibody level after the first vaccination. It is recommended that manufacturers conduct the necessary research studies to support the administration of two doses of vaccine.

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