THE vaccination programme aimed at controlling bovine TB in Wales could be rolled out to include other disease hotspots.

On the day that the Welsh Government announced that more than 1,400 badgers had been vaccinated in an intensive action area (IAA) in west Wales, Environment Minister John Griffiths said that options for expanding the vaccination programme and delivering it in other areas were currently being developed.

The vaccination programme replaced a controversial cull within the IAA, which is mainly located in north Pembrokeshire, but includes small parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. The region has one of the highest incidences of bovine TB in Europe.

Mr Griffiths remains confident that vaccination should reduce the risk of TB transmission frombadgers to cattle.

“I will be monitoring the results of vaccination and of our entire eradication programme carefully to ensure we are making good progress towards our ultimate goal of a TB-free Wales. I will report further in the new year,” he said.

A project report will be published at the end of January and will include a cost breakdown for the first year of the programme.

Mr Griffiths said the success of the vaccination initiative had been dependent on staff being granted access to as much land as possible.

“I would like to thank farmers and landowners for their ongoing co-operation and encourage other partners and stakeholders to consider how they could work with us to increase the number of badgers we can vaccinate in Wales,” he said.

The IAA covers 288 square kilometres and it is thought to be the first time a project to cage and vaccinate badgers has been carried out on this scale.

The decision to scrap the cull angered political opponents and agricultural unions, who say the disease has a devastating impact on beef and dairy farms.