By Alisa Mullins
In a move that has been a decade in the making, pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk has announced that it will no longer use animals in quality-control tests of each batch of the biological products—including vaccines—that it manufactures. This move will spare more than 700 animals every year.
Scientists in PETA's Regulatory Testing Division (RTD) have been working for years to promote the implementation of non-animal methods for vaccine batch–testing and recently published an article in the science journal Animals highlighting the multipronged approach that they have used to save thousands of animals' lives.
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Of the approximately 10 million animals used annually to produce vaccines, about 80 percent are used in horrifyingly painful testing that is conducted for each batch of vaccines, so it is easy to understand why RTD's work is critically important.
Among the successes detailed in the journal article was pushing industry to take full advantage of available alternatives to the use of hamsters and other animals for testing theleptospirosis vaccine. PETA also tackled erysipelas testing and achieved an exciting victory when the U.S. Department of Agriculture replaced the protocol for testing on pigs with the non-animal method.
RTD continues to hammer away at other gruesome government-mandated experiments, including the one for rabies batch potency–testing, which requires injecting hundreds of mice with the rabies virus—for each batch of rabies vaccine. The injections go through the animals' skulls and directly into their brains. Half of the animals receive a protective vaccine, while the others do not. Most of the unprotected mice die painfully and slowly from convulsions, loss of muscle control, and eventual suffocation.
Not only are the tests for vaccine potency typically very painful, drawn out, and lethal for animals, regulators also agree that they are not as effective as modern methods of testing vaccine strength and safety. Better, more precise tests have been developed but have not yet been validated for use.