Finland is set to vaccinate fur production animals against Covid. The Finnish Breeders' Association (FIFUR) will be vaccinating minks against coronavirus in the coming weeks, after being granted a conditional license by the Finnish Food Authority.
The vaccine covered by the license was developed by a research team at the University of Helsinki. In addition to the university's laboratories, the vaccine has been tested at a fur farm in Kannus, Central Ostrobothnia.
FurcoVac is classed as an experimental vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 and has been granted a conditional license although it still lacks a trading license.
The process of developing the vaccine has been challenging, with a tight schedule only adding to the pressure, according to Jussi Peura, the FIFUR project's research director. FurcoVac utilises the same raw materials that are needed to produce the vaccines used in humans.
"There were challenges in manufacturing the vaccines and acquiring the raw materials, as human vaccines were also being produced at the same time and they largely required the same raw materials that we used," Peura told Yle.
According to the research director, skinning on the Kannus fur farm is due to begin in the next few weeks, after which they can begin vaccinating the remaining breeder animals.
"We have enough vaccine doses to vaccinate all Finnish breeding mink twice. A booster vaccine will also be needed," Peura said.
About half a million doses of vaccine have been set aside for the process.
There have been no recorded cases of coronavirus infections in minks at Finnish farms. Farms in other EU countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain, culled millions of mink to prevent the infection from spreading to humans after cases were detected.
According to FIFUR, minks and raccoon dogs, which are bred for fur in the country, are susceptible to the virus, as are cats and white-tailed deer.
"We will continue tackling the epidemic and protecting against the disease in cooperation with the authorities. Having been granted permission for use, this mink vaccine is part of protection measures. This has been a strenuous time for producers who have had to isolate themselves while ensuring workers' protection," Peura said.
Studies suggest that minks could transmit the virus back into humans.
“Having these mink farms is a big risk because it makes it much more difficult to manage the epidemic and creates such big reservoirs of susceptible hosts,” Francois Balloux, a geneticist with University College London and co-author of a paper on Covid-19 transmission in minks, told Reuters.