By: Kate Remias, Staff Member
Environmental Protection Agency has officially registered the first
contraceptive vaccine for use in horses, with The Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS) sponsoring the registration. The vaccine was registered under the
brand name ZonaStat-H but is commonly known as porcine zona pellucida (PZP) and
is touted as a “win-win-win” by HSUS President and CEO, who indicates it will
be good for horses, the environment, and taxpayers.
This vaccine is
making headlines across the Nation because of its potential to mitigate the
problems associated with the approximately 12 million unwanted horses in the
United States. The HSUS
estimates the vaccine’s use could save taxpayers millions of dollars over the next
A U.S. Geological Survey indicated PZP could save as much as $7.7 million
Wayne Parcell, President and CEO of the HSUS, posted in his blog–hosted on the
HSUS website–that using PZP could save taxpayers tens of millions over the next
The question obviously becomes: which is it? Unfortunately, the answer could be
none of the above. To determine if
PZP will really save taxpayer money, we must compare the cost of administering
the vaccine with the tax dollars the vaccine will save.
Data on cost and
pricing for ZonaStat-H was not as readily available as I anticipated, but there
is data available on PZP. In 2006–when PZP was being used to control deer
population–the cost per dose was between $10 and $25, but was predicted to decrease
as production became more efficient.
In 2008, however, PZP still cost $21 per dose when used on mares.
The problem with these figures is that they do not appear to fully impute all
costs of producing the vaccine. The Science and Conservation Center is the
boutique operation producing the PZP currently registered as ZonaStat-H.
The Center has three scientists and they only make a few thousand doses of the
vaccine a year, with each batch taking about 25 hours over the course of week
to make. So let’s assume they make 2,000 doses,
which allegedly cost around $21 each, that’s a total cost of $42,000. The full
cost of each vaccine needs to impute the cost of the scientist’s time, the cost
of the facility, the Center’s overhead costs, the costs of the chemical
components, etc. It seems impossible that that a cost figure around $21
accounts for anything besides the chemical ingredients to make PZP.
Furthermore, when you account for the costs to actually administer the vaccine,
cost estimates quickly rise to between $200 and $300 per dose.
Ok so it’s an
expensive dose, but how does it compare to the taxpayer savings that will be
generated? Since 1971 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been charged with
wild horse and burro management. In 2011, BLM budgeted approximately $64
million for wild horse and burro management. In 2012 their plan is to shift horse
and burro management to focus on fertility control, moving away from federally
funded wild horse preserves. So how much taxpayer dollars will this
shift save? None. The 2012 budget requests an increase of $12 million for horse
and burro management in order to facilitate the new plan.
I’m having a
hard time finding where these tax dollars are going to be saved. None of this
is an argument against the potential utility of PZP, nor is it intended to deny
the severity of the unwanted horse population. To the contrary, PZP appears to
be an instrumental step in a positive direction. My point is only that if the President and CEO of the HSUS is going to blog about the tens of millions of
taxpayer dollars which will be saved, perhaps Mr. Parcell should give the
taxpayers the respect of tweeting some financials supporting that position.
Approves New Horse Contraceptive Vaccine, GreatFallsTribune.com(Feb.
17, 2012, 10:00 PM), http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20120218/NEWS01/202180310/EPA-approves-new-horse-contraceptive-vaccine.
16 U.S.C.A. § 1331 et seq. (West 2012).