Experiences with some new vaccines against “current” virus diseases in pigeons

For some years now, combination vaccines have been available on the market against virus diseases such as Paramyxo, Herpes, Adeno. Circovirus vaccines are also offered for pigeons and there is also a new Paratyphoid vaccine.

Combination vaccines RP

The latest new vaccine that has been on the market for a few years now is the combination vaccine RP, which stands for the two viral diseases Rota and Paramyxo. At the request of the IVPA,  the International Association of Pigeon Veterinarians, of which I am also a member, a number of selected pigeon veterinarians are asked to share their experiences with these new vaccines with them.

In the meantime, dear reader, you have heard from the media how this works with the development and testing of vaccines against viruses, in this case the corona virus COVID-19. We now know that we are in the testing phase for a number of potential vaccines, so-called phase 3, in which numerous volunteers are being tested. Vaccines against COVID-19 will be available in early 2021 if you follow the news carefully. The key question is, of course, how effective are these vaccines and how safe are they for their recipients.

Of course the same questions apply to pigeon vaccines and that is exactly what I want to talk to you about. Chronologically I will go through the various vaccines.


First, the vaccines against Paramyxo (PPMV-1, meaning Pigeon Paramyxovirus type 1). From 1982, when I first saw the Paramyxo disease in the Netherlands, we had to survive with poultry vaccines against NCD (Newcastle disease, also a Paramyxo type 1 virus). These were injectable white vaccines, “made” from the dead virus based on mineral oil to damage the tissue so that the vaccine would take effect better. To be injected under the skin (subcutaneously). Normally, the vaccine is injected into the neck under the skin with the needle pointing back.

La Sota-vaccine

There was also a vaccine administered via drinking water, the so-called La Sota vaccine for poultry, easy to administer, but the effect was short and the immunity was low! No so-called antibodies were detected in the blood, with a fancy word seroconversion. A local tissue immunity is assumed. It is better to drop this vaccine in the eyes and nose, but we recommend this method only for emergencies, so outbreaks in breeding pigeons with small youngsters because the immunity is too low and lasts too short. There are the white oil adjuvant pigeon PMV vaccines and the aqueous vaccines on a different basis! Those aqueous vaccines hardly produce any inoculation nodules, the oil adjuvant vaccines in a few percent of the vaccinated pigeons that you can only feel if you are very trained! In terms of operation (effectiveness), they hardly differ. So thus far a familiar story.

Adeno vaccines

Then colleagues used Adeno vaccines for chickens with the idea and hope that this could work with the “Adeno-coli syndrome” in young pigeons, also often referred to as Adeno (B) and Coli (NL). This vaccine for the chickens is called EDS vaccine which means something like Egg Drop Syndrome, or “less egg laying syndrome”, caused by an Adenovirus, but of a completely different type and therefore it does not work at all in pigeons.

Circovirus vaccines

Then there are colleagues who promote Circovirus vaccines, but I am convinced that they do not work either. This is a pig vaccine and that is also a completely different virus than the Circovirus in pigeons, and so many young pigeons have a problem-free latent contamination of Circoviruses (Bursa Fabricius) that developing a pigeon vaccine separately does not seem worthwhile. I suspect that the Circovirus vaccines currently circulating on the market, are just filled vials of the pig vaccine.

PHA vaccine

Subsequently, in recent years, combination vaccines have come on the market against Paramyxo and Herpes and if that was not yet enough, the same company (manufacturer) has added a 3-fold combination vaccine to their product range, called Paramyxo, Herpes, Adeno, for short called PHA.

Now I have been testing vaccines for efficacy and safety for years and with regard to Herpes and Adeno that was not quite positive, the efficacy was NIHIL, but what I have now experienced in 2020 with the PHA vaccine is dramatic. Yes, against P (Paramyxo) it helps, but against Adeno and Herpes not at all, nothing, zero, niente! And much worse is that a number of pigeons got the deadly Herpes after this vaccination. I was confronted with this by a number of Belgian top fanciers where dozens of youngsters from about six weeks of age died with the very classic symptoms such as yellow tissue in the mouth and scabs in both eyes and died within 5 days. For the sake of convenience, I call this clinical picture (only in young pigeons) Herpes 2.We had the diagnosis superfluously confirmed by the PCR method at a top lab in Belgium. I have never seen so many cases of this Herpes as this year !!

1. Young pigeon with classic Herpes symptoms (Herpes 2)

I spoke with my colleague Prof. Ab Osterhaus about the Herpes virus in general and specifically in pigeons. He did not see a point in a vaccine against this either, partly because so many pigeons are simply a latent carrier of this disease without any problem.

Salmonella vaccine

In the spring we were also confronted with the consequences of an oil-based Salmonella vaccine (white) from Slovakia. With this vaccine it was remarkable how many pigeons developed grafting nodules (granulomas) from 1 week after vaccination. Three months later they had become somewhat smaller, cut off, but still clearly palpable. Some of these granulomas were rejected by the body after a few months.
We have also tested this vaccine ourselves on somewhat older test pigeons and found the same inoculation nodules in a high percentage of tested pigeons (more than 50%). Pressure on vital nerves and blood vessels in the neck due to these granulomas will make you lose pigeons more easily. The more you inoculate with white oil adjuvant vaccines, the greater the chance of large vaccination reactions! Some pigeons even seem to be allergic to it.

2. Superficial inoculation nodule about 2 weeks after inoculation


3. Superficial inoculation nodule, approximately 2 months after inoculation, which is rejected by the body. By the way, most grafting nodules remain encapsulated deep in the neck.

Combination vaccine RP (Rota/Paramyxo)

Finally, some preliminary practical experiences with the latest combination vaccine called RP (Rota / Paramyxo). According to German researchers, the Rotavirus is the cause of the “classic young pigeon disease”, better known as “adeno-coli syndrome” or internationally Y.P.D.S. Young Pigeons Disease Syndrome. That would also mean that this Rotavirus has been circulating in our pigeon population for more than 40 years. We have also seen this syndrome change over that period of 40 years, moreover it is usually easy to cure with the right antibiotics, which in that case means that the virus component is apparently not that important!

I have always taken the view that it is mainly an E.coli problem in the case of the classic “Adeno-coli syndrome”. In the German “Verbandsklinik” this clinical picture was initially called “Mooskrankheit”, which literally means moss disease (roof gutter disease). Later, colleagues in Germany called this a “Faktorenkrankheit”, ie a combination of a number of different factors, including Tricho, Hexamites, Circoviruses, which would lead to an outbreak.
We know that stress is an important “trigger” of this disease, we have learned that over the past 40 years !!

In recent years, particularly in Germany and Belgium, more serious ‘adeno-coli’ cases with more acute deaths have occurred. My good friend and colleague Colin Walker first described these problems in the province of Victoria in Australia in 2016. First mainly with old pigeons and later also with young pigeons. In 2017 I was consulted by a number of concerned pigeon fanciers during a live radio broadcast through a kind of “world broadcaster” from Australia to share our expertise on this issue with them.

Testing RP vaccine

This year (2020) we have set up a few large tests with hundreds of pigeons in 4 large lofts. All even numbers were inoculated with the RP vaccine and the odd numbers only with an aqueous PMV vaccine (without Rota component).
In a number of cases the pigeons vaccinated against Rota nevertheless got Y.P.D.S. (Rota was nevertheless found in the aforementioned lab in Belgium via the PCR method), but in general the symptoms were milder and there was less mortality. Several colleagues also report that they have the same impression and that is encouraging. I am curious whether this suspicion is based on a thorough investigation with hundreds of pigeons as we have done and will repeat next year; or based on an impression. Within a year we will have more data on the results of the RP vaccination.

In any case, I hope that the large mortality among ornamental pigeons during the shows in the autumn in Germany can be prevented by vaccinating these pigeons a few weeks before those shows. I will in any case inform my German clients about this possibility and carefully evaluate the results.

In summary, it will be clear to you that my own vaccination schedule looks like this:
– Young pigeons at 5 to 6 weeks are vaccinated against Paramyxo, preferably with an aqueous vaccine, repeat after about 6 weeks with the combination RP vaccine (Rota / PMV).
– If necessary, repeat after about 1 month with RP (the Rota is then more important than the PMV component).
– Vaccination against smallpox / diphtheria from 10 weeks.
So we will not vaccinate against Herpes, Circo and Adeno !!! Nor do we vaccinate against Paratyphus, I have never seen miracles from this inoculation! In fact, there is no scientific research to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Paratyphus vaccination. Nevertheless, I am always looking for good (safe and effective) Paratyphus vaccines!
– Old pigeons: the annual vaccination against PMV and pocks / diphtheria.

Obviously, I am not against vaccination, I am even a big believer in it, but the vaccines should at least work a little and not cause miserable side effects!

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