The place veterinarians stand within the line for COVID vaccine – Information

Vaccine graphic

Like almost everyone who is worried about the novel coronavirus, Dr. Kelly Avila, when will it be her turn to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As a resident veterinarian, Avila has found that the answer is far from clear and rumors are rife.

Governments generally agree that veterinarians are an essential workforce. But while they are health professionals, veterinarians are a long way from the front line of COVID-19 patient care. As a result, the wait for the vaccine is very different. In some states, they are in the highest priority group. They are assigned to the general public in at least one state. And in most states, one way or another, they still have to receive instructions.

On December 14, an intensive care nurse in New York City became the first person in the country to receive a coronavirus vaccination. In the month since then, 10.8 million doses have been administered in the U.S. and at least 762,601 people have completed the two-dose regimen, according to Bloomberg.

Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put health workers and residents of long-term care facilities first for vaccination, followed by those aged 75 and over and non-health essential workers. Next are people ages 65 to 74, people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk illnesses, and key workers who have not previously been vaccinated.

It is up to the states to determine exactly how vaccines are introduced in their jurisdictions, and many have delegated some decisions to the counties.

Avila, a Texas mobile veterinarian with rehabilitation and acupuncture practice, said she checked the websites of the CDC and her state’s Department of Health and Human Services for clues about her profession. Still unsure of where she was, she kept an eye on a Texan vet listing service.

About two weeks ago, Avila informed VIN News Service that local health departments with excess vaccine may soon be calling individual vets inviting them to be vaccinated. Shortly afterwards, she reported, someone else wrote: “You called me and I went straight in.”

Other vets said they called the pharmacy of a supermarket chain that does vaccinations in Texas and was told, “Come on, if there are any cans left you can have them.” [one]. “

Each vial of one of the two COVID-19 vaccines currently in use – manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – contains multiple doses. Both products must be used within six hours of piercing a vial.

Even so, Avila was unsure of what sounded like an all-rounder. Their confusion was compounded by a story from a client who works as an accountant. The client told Avila that her orthopedic surgeon was doing vaccinations and offered to vaccinate her.

As Avila understood, “He was nice; he just had extras. So he’ll do all of his staffing himself and then, I think, pick people he picks,” she said, calling the obvious preference “ugly”. “”

The fact that the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine is less systematic is well documented. For example, last week the New York Times reported that wealthy people try to get the vaccine first;; and that workers in elite medical centers who did not qualify as front line personnel were also vaccinated.

However, the Times stressed the importance of flexibility, reporting that the New York governor eased rules after unused vaccines were thrown away.

Many veterinary interest groups are pushing for veterinarians and support staff to be prioritized for vaccination. The American Veterinary Medical Association claims that:

  • Veterinary teams go directly to support the food and agriculture industries, and also help maintain pet health, which promotes the physical and mental wellbeing of their owners.
  • Veterinary teams are at risk of public exposure while caring for patients.
  • Veterinarians protect human and animal health by monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in animals and monitoring other zoonotic diseases.

Many state veterinary associations urge their state governments to include veterinary teams among the earliest vaccine recipients. Some were successful.

In California, the Community Community Vaccine Advisory Committee last week changed its “essential workforce” list to include “workers who support veterinary clinics and clinics,” said Dan Baxter, executive director of the California Veterinary Medical Association. As a result, he emailed VIN News: “[W]We now believe veterinarians will be admitted to phase 1a. “

In Oregon, veterinarians are in phase 1a with other health professionals. Those in phase 1a are further divided into priority categories; Workers who provide veterinary care are in Group 4, according to a letter Dr. Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian, sent to licensees last week.

“Groups 1 through 4 are currently eligible for vaccination,” he wrote. “The speed at which people are vaccinated depends on the availability of vaccines and the support of health systems to deliver vaccines and provide people with side effects. The logistics of how this is communicated and implemented is in the works.”

Deborah Lakamp, ​​executive director of the Illinois Veterinary Medical Association, said veterinarians were classified as “farm laborers” and placed in Tier 1b, which includes 1.3 million people.

In South Carolina, veterinarians and their team members will be assigned to Phase 1c by the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians, according to Marie Queen. Queen said the state is still vaccinating those in phase 1a.

New Mexico is in another state where veterinarians are in Phase 1c, according to Tamara Spooner, executive director of the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association.

At the other end of the range is Massachusetts, where veterinarians are not a priority to get the vaccine. “Currently, the enrollment of veterinarians on the state’s COVID vaccination distribution plan is in Phase 3,” according to the state’s VMA website. “We understand that many are frustrated and disappointed.” In phase 3 the vaccine is available to the public.

Jamie Falzone, executive director of MVMA, said the organization had not stepped down in that position. “We continue to press for a re-examination so that vets can get the vaccine before the current April 2021 projection,” she said via email.

Veterinary teams are pushing in other ways too. An online petition is underway to ask the Governor and the Massachusetts Vaccine Advisory Group to include veterinarians and their support staff in Phase 2.

Based on information gathered by VIN News over the past week, government veterinary organizations are more likely to wait for officials to clarify the exact position of veterinarians and / or their support staff.

“I wish I had more control,” said Chris Copeland, executive director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. “We have been working for weeks to get more information.”

Copeland said the organization tried to justify veterinary involvement in Phase 1b, but the 1b group was ultimately defined not by potential occupational exposure but by an individual medical risk. It includes people aged 65 and over and people aged 16 and over with a chronic illness. Now state officials decide who will be in phase 1c.

Like Avila, the Texas mobile vet, Copeland said he heard anecdotes about people who weren’t among the prioritized groups who manage to get vaccinated at local pharmacies. “We told our members to keep an eye on what was happening at the local level [because] Opportunities can arise, “he said.

“I would much rather see people who are not necessarily on the current list get vaccinated as opposed to the vaccine, which is thrown away because it is spoiled,” argued Copeland.

In Kentucky, vaccine rollout is done county by county, according to Debra Hamelback, executive director of the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association. The group received confirmation from the state public health veterinarian that vets are in Phase 1b, but officials in at least two counties initially questioned this, she said. “It is only [requiring] a little bit back and forth “to sort things out, said Hamelback.

She noticed that some places have completed 1a vaccinations and are starting to contact individual veterinary practices to invite them to receive the recordings. “I know of four different veterinary clinics across the state that have actually received calls from the health department,” Hamelback said.

Heather Vaughn has to figure out two states – she’s the executive director of the veterinary associations in Alabama and Tennessee.

Up until this week, the eligibility of veterinarians in both states appeared to be left to the districts’ interpretation. “We’re trying to figure out where vets fit into the plan,” Vaughn said last week, considering, “Critical infrastructure – is that us? Agriculture and food – is that us? Other health workers?”

But on Wednesday, Vaughn told VIN News that she had just received official news that Alabama vets are in Phase 1b. The state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, has issued a letter stating the vets’ place in line. Veterinarians can contact ALVMA to get a copy of the letter.

Questions still remain as to where vets fall into Tennessee’s vaccination schedule. One possibility is for agricultural and non-agricultural veterinarians to be divided into separate categories. “We believe it is possible that veterinarians in different regions of our state may be eligible for vaccination at different times because the regional allocations of vaccines, population and rate of vaccine decrease from previous stages are different,” wrote Vaughn in an email to VIN News.

TVMA officials want information; You don’t want to come first.

“To be clear, we are not advocating a position in front of the frontline health workers or the very vulnerable populations of our society who should be vaccinated at the earliest opportunity,” wrote Dr. Matt Polovich, President of TVMA to association members: “We are requesting this information so that we can inform our members when they and their employees can expect to be vaccinated appropriately and in a timely manner if they so wish.”

Anna Lewis contributed to this report.

VIN News Service comments are opinion pieces that provide insights, personal experiences, and / or perspectives on current issues from members of the veterinary community. To submit a review for review, email news@vin.com.