The FDA began issuing COVID-19 vaccines in December. With distribution determined by “phase” classifications, many members of the veterinary industry have been left wondering when their vaccines will be made available.
Vaccination distribution plans have been primarily left at the discretion of state governments, thus resulting in some differences from one state to the next. That said, Phase 1A has generally included frontline healthcare workers, as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Upon the substantial completion of Phase 1A, some states have begun transitioning to Phase 1B, which generally includes first responders, individuals over the age of 65, and individuals with underlying health conditions. The parameters of Phase 1C is still largely unclear in many states, but it is generally expected to encompass select groups of “essential workers,” including childhood education workers, public transit workers, postal workers and more. Vaccination of the general population is not expected until Phase 2 (or, in some states, Phase 3).
While veterinarians are typically recognized as “healthcare providers” by their respective states, they have scarcely been included in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution – with California and Oregon being notable exceptions. The CDC has recently recommended including “veterinary services” in Phase 1B of vaccine distribution, with states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania following this federal guidance. Other states, however, have not granted this level of priority; for instance, South Carolina and New Mexico have designated veterinarians as Phase 1C eligible, while Massachusetts will not make vaccination available to veterinarians and support staff until it is available to the general population in its respective Phase 3.
Many states such as New York, New Jersey, Florida, and more, have yet to determine which priority status will be granted to veterinarians and support staff, if priority status is provided at all. The prevailing trend seems to be that veterinary medicine will receive Phase 1B or Phase 1C classification in most states. However, it is important to remain up to date on the vaccination distribution plan of your respective state, as such plans have been subject to frequent update and revision.