Poultry Disease Control Takes Good Vaccine Handling and Administration


While simple practices may be easy to overlook, vaccine failures can be prevented with  a well-executed vaccine program.

Diseases are everywhere and often evolve, making them complicated to control in poultry. Vaccination programs mitigate disease risk in a poultry flock, yet it can be costly to have disease challenges pop up. Sometimes it’s important to take a hard look at your vaccination program protocols to ensure there aren’t any issues with vaccine failures due to poor handling and administration.

“Properly applying targeted vaccines is the foundation of helping birds develop immunity against pathogens that they, or their progeny, may be exposed to,” said Chase Miller, D.V.M., Elanco technical consultant. “Vaccines aim to reduce future health, welfare and performance impacts of pathogen exposure and reduce variation within the flock when applied uniformly.”

Protecting your poultry operations against diseases involves more than proper biosecurity measures and other management tools. It also takes adherence to good vaccination practices.

Tips for Building a Proper Vaccination Program

There are a few things that should be done to help reduce disease risk and build a solid vaccination program for your operation. Here are three tips for setting up your poultry vaccination program for success:

  1. Monitor Bird Health

It’s crucial to monitor bird health in layer and broiler operations and diagnose diseases quickly. If diseases do enter your poultry barn, there are a few telltale signs that your flock is infected.

“In general, some of the first signs of disease are drops in water and feed intake,” said Miller, “In egg-laying birds, this can then be followed by a drop in production or clinical signs of illness if the bird has low immunity to the pathogen. These signs can also be seen in non-pathogen related issues as well, so good diagnosis is key when facing disease challenges.”

There are a few tools used in the commercial poultry industry for diagnosing diseases and monitoring flock health before and after vaccination. Working closely with vendor partners or your consulting veterinarian, you can discuss baseline and disease response diagnostics, such as serology testing. When your flock has a positive health status at the time of vaccination, they have a better chance of experiencing a normal vaccine response.

“When most live vaccines are applied, there are usually minimal to no reactions seen,” said Miller. “When killed vaccines are injected, the primary response seen would be a slight decrease in feed intake and weight gain the following week and less bird activity the day following vaccination.”

This should be expected but following proper administration guidelines and bird handling procedures can help reduce the impact killed vaccines have on target weight achievement.

  1. Properly Handle and Administer Vaccines

The most common cause of vaccine failure in poultry is improper administration of vaccines. Therefore, it’s critical to have a well-designed vaccine program with protocols in place and follow proper bird-handling techniques to enhance bird welfare during and after vaccination.

“Lack of adequate personnel training can lead to vaccine efficacy issues due to improper application and management of vaccines,” said Kelly Garris, an account manager with Aviagen®. “It’s essential to train your vaccination crew and conduct audits before administering and handling vaccines.”

As you prepare for vaccine administration, it is a good idea to create a checklist to ensure vaccines are appropriately stored from the time they are delivered until they are administered. A checklist should include the following practices:

  • Store vaccines at recommended temperatures before
  • Equip vaccine storage coolers with an alarm for notification of temperature failures.
  • Remove emulsion vaccines from the refrigerator the night prior to administration.
  • Keep the vaccine at or near bird temperature the day of vaccination.
  • Record vaccinations properly and train your employees on proper vaccine handling.

Some common pitfalls can occur when administering and handling vaccines. Make sure you and your vaccination crew do not participate in these incorrect practices, including:

  • Administering vaccines at incorrect temperatures (too hot or too cold)
  • Incorrectly placing a vaccine into bird or rough administration techniques
  • Using contaminated vaccination equipment or needles
  • Utilizing improperly calibrated guns, bent needles and the wrong needle sizes

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when storing and handling vaccines.

Good vaccination practices are essential to your poultry operation. By following proper administration and handling techniques, you can reduce the stress placed on birds in your layer and broiler operations, and you can ensure that they will have an effective immune response.

An Elanco representative can help tailor an effective vaccination program and make sure  proper and appropriate vaccination protocols are in place. Contact your Elanco representative today.