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Veterinarians and the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout – What You Need To Know

Veterinarians are essential medical workers. We know that, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) knows that, and your patients know that.

Despite combing through countless policies, there was not one U.S. state or territory that originally specifically mentioned veterinarians “essential medical workers”. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary hospitals and staff have encountered countless appointments, emergency calls, fussy patients, and worried family members just like human doctors, nurses, and specialists. In many states, this excellent level of care has been all but removed from the medical field.

Federal and State Guidelines

The AVMA had to fiercely and effectively advocate for veterinarians to be eligible to receive early access to the COVID-19 vaccine based on their status as medical professionals. At first, the AVMA’s work was focused on the federal level – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, the CDC only provided guidelines for how U.S. states and territories should handle the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. As a result, U.S. sates and territories have only been advised – not required – to include veterinarians in Phase 1b of their individualized vaccine rollouts.

Georgia Guidance for Veterinarians and Covid

This has caused state-specific veterinary medical associations to approach their local governments and advocate for those in their communities. For example, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) has appealed to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) to include veterinarians in Phase 1a. At this time, the GDPH has not provided any updated information on whether veterinarians will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine simultaneously with other healthcare professionals.

Veterinarians in Phase 1a in Nevada

The Nevada VMA successfully appealed the Nevada Department of Health to include veterinarians and veterinary staff in Phase 1a of the state’s vaccine rollout plan. This was revealed when Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced that veterinarians, among other healthcare professionals, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every state has different rules

The AVMA’s efforts have been successful in states such as California and Nevada where veterinarians and veterinary staff have already begun to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the majority of states and U.S. territories have veterinarians eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1b. This phase is often labelled as “critical infrastructure” or “non-medical essential business/worker”. While these labels allow veterinarians to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine sooner than the general population, these labels ignore the medical importance of veterinarians and veterinary staff.

As we all know, the vaccine rollout isn’t going as smoothly as planned. Doses are expiring, lines are long, vaccine clinics are completely book, and the state-by-state vaccination plans can be confusing. Some states, like Florida, are allowing snowbirds (those who live in Florida in the winter) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, many states, such as California and Michigan, require individuals to receive both rounds of the vaccine in the same county. This is to ensure that the distribution process and vaccination efforts remain as balanced and sustainable as possible.

Check your local and state rules to see whether you can get your vaccine.