Hendra Virus Vaccine Does Not Make Horses Run Faster

We recall, many years in the past, when we were required to receive certain vaccinations prior to attending school for the first time.

No one ever thought to question whether or not the immunizations would make it easier for us to learn how to read, colour within the lines or run faster on the play yard when sent outside to give the instructors a spell.

Most everyone was glad that we would not die or start some sort of epidemic.

Yet, rather than take the simple precaution of vaccinating horses to prevent them from the deadly Hendra virus, it was necessary to determine if the vaccine might possible make the horses run faster.

Any living horse can outrun any dead one, right.

The other side of the issue is that the vaccine might be an impairment to the running ability of horses.

The Hendra virus may be deadly, but it is not widespread. Less than one quarter of the racehorse population has received the inoculation.

The virus was discovered, if that is the right word to use for it, in Brisbane in 1994. From then until the vaccine became available in 2012 and until the present time in 2018, four people and over 100 horses have died.

Pardon us if four human and 100 equine deaths in 24 years does not sound like an epidemic.

The study into the possible performance enhancing effects of the Hendra vaccine was funded by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission.

The results of the study were released in Brisbane recently, and elicited these comments from QRIC commissioner Ross Barnett.

“It was designed so that industry regulators and participants can base their decisions on accurate information and science rather than rumour and speculation. The extensive study examined the Timeform rating of 1154 thoroughbreds over 12,066 race starts and assessed their performance one and three months before and after vaccination, with no difference in form detected.”

The QRIC is to be commended for its thoroughness, no doubt.

An easier method would have been to see which horses had been vaccinated and showed a marked increase in performance, since it is safe to assume, cynicism aside, that if the vaccine helped, it would be turning up in testing samples on a regular basis.

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