WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2015 - Fearing a return of the avian influenza, the Agriculture Department is moving ahead with plans to stockpile a vaccine ahead of the next outbreak. 

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the release of a solicitation for proposals to supply up to 500 million doses of vaccine. 

“While APHIS has not approved the use of vaccine to respond to HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) to date, the agency is preparing to ensure that vaccine is available should the decision be made to use it,” APHIS said, adding that it has not yet decided whether to use the vaccine. 

The poultry industry has been split over the idea of vaccinating birds. Producers of broiler chickens, who are more dependent on exports, have been concerned that use of a vaccine would lead other countries to ban imports of U.S. product. 

Egg and turkey producers have been more receptive to the vaccine. They are less dependent on exports and were hard hit by the outbreak in Iowa, Minnesota and neighboring states earlier this year. 

The National Turkey Federation said in a statement Tuesday that it supported the “use of a vaccine for eradication of the virus, as one of the many tools available for growers most at-risk, particularly in the upper Midwest. “

The vaccine must be effective in protecting at least 90 percent of fully vaccinated chickens and turkeys against the disease, according to the solicitation. “The vaccine stockpile will be used for emergency vaccination and to supplement commercial supplies as part of a larger vaccination campaign.”

APHIS also said it would publish in coming weeks an environmental assessment that analyzes the impact of using the vaccine.

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