Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig and the horse, First Kiss, during the announcement that the Hendra vaccine is available in all Australian states and territories, on the front lawns of Parliament House.

Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig and the horse, First Kiss, during the announcement that the Hendra vaccine is available in all Australian states and territories, on the front lawns of Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax

The vaccine against the deadly Hendra virus is now available for use on horses nationally.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said this morning that the vaccine was being made available across the country for the first time after an initial roll-out in high risk areas in Queensland and New South Wales.

The vaccine is the result of almost 20 years of research, millions of dollars and close to 100 researchers.

It is hoped that the vaccine will stop the spread from horses to humans of the bat-borne virus, which has claimed the lives of four people and 80 horses since it was first identified in Brisbane in 1994.

‘‘It is so important for both the vet community plus the horse-owning community to have this breakthrough,’’ Senator Ludwig said.

The federal government contributed $3 million to the research and development of the vaccine by Pfizer, CSIRO, local vets and the US defence force.

The vaccine will not be subsidised by the government.

‘‘It’s important that horse owners talk to their vets about the vaccine because it is important that we have to break that cycle between bats who then pass it to horses, and then horses who then become sick with virus pass it to humans,’’ Senator Ludwig said.

‘‘So at this early stage if we can vaccinate horses against the virus it can’t transmit to humans, or at least the risks are minimized.’’

According to the CSIRO, Australia saw an unprecedented Hendra spike in 2011.

Last year was also the year that a dog first tested positive to the Hendra virus.

Australian Veterinarian Association president Ben Gardnier said the vaccine could prove a lifesaver for people on the land.

‘‘There are people that live their lives very close to horses and this is a killer virus,’’ Dr Gardiner said.

‘‘This is something that is in the interest of all people associated with horses, it’s important that it gets rolled out.’’

He said the vaccine was estimated to cost between $130 to $220 per dose.

Data will be collected to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness.