Egg recall may be boon for Kansas vaccine company

With a little luck, this summer's massive egg recall could be the last of its kind in the United States, and a Lenexa company will play a big part in making that happen.

That's because more farms are vaccinating their poultry against salmonella, and Ceva Biomune is the biggest of three U.S. companies making salmonella vaccines for egg-laying hens.

Since the salmonella outbreak and the recall of nearly 550 million eggs, the Food and Drug Administration has been criticized for not ordering use of the vaccines years ago. After a similar crisis in 1997, Great Britain pushed the vaccines and says it has now virtually eliminated the problem.

But even without a government mandate, Ceva Biomune estimates that 50 to 60 percent of all U.S. egg producers now vaccinate their hens to prevent salmonella poisoning. Last month the FDA issued new safety rules for egg producers that should keep the demand for the vaccines climbing, said Gary Baxter, the company's director of marketing and business development.

"We've seen a steady increase in demand for the vaccines in the past several years," he said. Although the new rules don't require vaccination, "we should see those numbers grow even more."

It also helps that the vaccines are relatively inexpensive.

Cost estimates vary, but the high end appears to be 40 to 60 cents a bird, including the cost of administering the vaccines. A single bird can lay about 270 eggs in its lifetime.

Some producers vaccinate their hens just once, although Ceva Biomune recommends multiple vaccinations over a hen's lifetime, Baxter said.

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