Hendra Case Sees Spike in Class Action Applicants

Filed in Recent News by June 19, 2019

FOLLOWING the case of Hendra in Scone last week, the litigators for a class action with the Hendra vaccine have seen a spike in applicants.

“Since the media reported on the single horse with Hendra, in the Upper Hunter alley, there has been a significant spike in the number of horse owners registering as claimants in the class action,” said Michael Hyland, special counsel for LHD Lawyers.

“Of the additional claimants who have registered 20 percent of their horses were euthanased following administration of the inoculation,” said he said.

“The group that we represent are contending that the vaccine has side effects there were more than minor or transient such as injection site swellings and elevated temperatures” he said.

“The side effects could be permanent and debilitating and in some cases, necessitated euthanising a horse,” he said.

“Zoetis failed to warn of the full range of side-effects thereby denying group members the ability to make an informed decision about the risk of Hendra versus the risk of vaccinating; furthermore, Zoetis overstated the risk of contracting the Hendra virus outside of a certain geographical area,” Mr Hyland said.

In December last year, Justice Michael Lee on hearing initial submissions said, “…I can tell you that the one thing that’s clear to me in this case, is that a claim can be pleaded.”

In April, Justice Lee, dismissed Zoetis’, the manufacturers of the Hendra vaccine, application seeking orders for security for costs.

Michael Hyland said following the Judge’s dismissal of Zoetis’ application there was another spike of horse owner’s registering in the class action.

Of the estimated 2 million horses in New South Wales, approximately 20 percent have been vaccinated against Hendra.

The Department of Primary Industries, Local Land Services, the CSIRO and veterinary associations all encourage horse owners to inoculate horses to protect them from Hendra and ensure herd immunity, especially in areas where Hendra cases have been identified and flying foxes are present.

Some individual veterinarians have refused to treat sick horses which have not been vaccinated against Hendra and some workplaces with horses refuse entry of horses which have not been vaccinated due to the possible risk to other horses and also to their staff interacting with horses.

However, some horse associations have relaxed their initial insistence that all horses attending equine events need to be immunised, with many horse owners choosing not to continue with inoculation.

Linden Knight, president of the Upper Hunter Dressage Association is one of the majority of horse owners who have decided not to continue with vaccinations and said it is up to each horse owner to weigh the risk and take appropriate precautions.

“A lot of people have done their own research because of the Hendra vaccine, we were all forced to use it early on when EA (Equestrian Australia) brought it in as compulsory,” said Ms Knight.

“There are only some high-risk areas on the north coast where they have to be vaccinated and it is a climate that Hendra thrives more readily, and if there were more cases down here and there was a big risk I would consider it,” she said.

“I’m pro vaccination, 100% if it is safe, if it is required and there is a safety reason for it and from everything I’ve read, it is a hard virus to contract, even if you are dealing with the horses,” she said.

“I didn’t worry about revaccinating, you’ve got some people that have got hundreds of horses and you start putting the vaccinations in there for something that may not be safe, may not be 100 percent effective and may not be required it’s a massive outlay for some people for something that is questionable at the moment,” she said.

“I’m not saying don’t vaccinate, if you’re in an area where there is a high risk then I think you should vaccinate because if the risk of getting it is higher than the risk of getting a bad reaction, then of course you should vaccinate; it is up to each person to assess the risk,” Linden Knight said.

Last weekend the Upper Hunter Dressage Association held an event in Scone, with the same number of participants as usual at the event, despite the case of Hendra in the area, which Ms Knight credits to horse owners being educated on the risk and understanding safe procedures with horses going to events. (See story: Equine Sports in Full Swing)

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Scone Hendra Case: