Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus (RHDV2) Vaccine Update


Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus (RHDV2) Vaccine

Update from Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) 

In late August 2023, MVMA staff reached out to MDAR regarding the vaccine status for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus (RHDV2). The following information was shared directly from our Assistant State Veterinarian, Dr. Margaret Gabour. If you have additional questions or need clarification, you can reach Dr. Gabour at Margaret.Gabour@mass.govor (617) 626 – 1795.

Medgene’s RHDV2 vaccine is Experimental and has been granted Emergency Use Authorization by CVB (USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics). Medgene had initially informed States that their vaccine would be conditionally licensed by CVB around the end of 2021, but the approval of the vaccine for higher levels of licensure has been delayed several times. It appears that Medgene expects conditional approval this fall. There have been two detections of RHDV2 in the northeast. One in New York in November 2021, and another in Connecticut in September 2022.  In both situations, the disease was limited to rabbits in a single household. There was suspicion that virus could have been brought into these homes on hay, greens, or vegetables sourced from an area where RHDV2 was spreading in the wild rabbit population, such as the Western US. State and Federal agencies are monitoring the situation in domestic and wild rabbits. Thankfully no "Emergency" exists in Massachusetts, as there is no evidence that RHDV2 exists in wild or domestic rabbits in the Northeast. The Emergency Use Authorization approval is normally reserved for areas that are already affected by the disease as is the case in the Western US.

At this time, and regardless of vaccination status, practicing proper biosecurity and avoiding potentially contaminated feed are the best ways to protect rabbits and prevent the spread of disease. Attached is a comprehensive biosecurity document that veterinarians could distribute to clients. Rabbit owners should consider sourcing feed including hay, greens, and vegetables from states where disease is not circulating in wildlife.

The Mass Grown and Fresher site may be a good resource for finding locally grown produce year-round: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-grownand-fresher. Owners may be able to source locally grown hay from our local hay farmers, feed stores, and farms (dairies, horse farms).

CLICK HERE to download a flyer to share with rabbit owners.