Hong Kong decision a big step towards Hendra vaccinations

HOW Asian countries react to Hong Kong's acceptance of horses vaccinated for the Hendra virus will prove critical to breeder Neville Stewart's Southbrook stud.

Mr Stewart has held off vaccinating his horses for the virus because they were not allowed into the Asian market.

It left him in a difficult situation in which he wanted to take all measures available to protect against the virus at his Oakland Stud but did not want to lose access to vital clientele.

That was until Racing Queensland earlier this week confirmed Hong Kong had agreed to accept vaccinated horses.

"That brings us a lot closer to where we want to be," Mr Stewart said.

Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon said independent tests were done in Hong Kong to ensure authorities could differentiate between horses with the vaccine and horses with the virus itself.

Tests were also carried out to confirm the vaccination did not have any properties which could adversely affect animals.

Mr Stewart hoped other major markets including Macau, Singapore, China and Korea would follow Hong Kong's example.

Mr Dixon was confident other Asian countries would also allow Hendra vaccinated horses in the next few months.

"What tends to happen with the Asian countries is they wait for Hong Kong and follow soon after," Mr Dixon said.

He said it removed one of the major roadblocks to making the crucial vaccination program mandatory.

"We will not move to a mandatory situation until all of those (countries) are across the line."

He understood trainers and breeders concerns about losing a market, but was adamant the mandatory vaccination program should go ahead.

"There is now technology available to minimise or eradicate the risk."