From the start of the pandemic, most European countries recognised the importance of veterinarians in protecting animal and public health, designating them as an ‘essential or critical profession’. This meant they could continue to work through the lockdowns. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the World Veterinary Association, the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association had all called for this.
Now that vaccination campaigns have started, it is important to include veterinarians in one of the priority groups, for the following reasons:
- Veterinarians and veterinary teams directly support food businesses and contribute to providing a safe and sufficient food supply.
- Veterinarians as well as other staff at slaughterhouses and processing plants, which have been recognised as COVID ‘hotspots’ are particularly vulnerable. They are essential in keeping food on our table.
- Veterinarians ensure the health and wellbeing of companion animals which play an important role in supporting their owners’ physical and mental wellbeing during the pandemic.
- Although the veterinary profession has been creative in implementing important risk management measures during the pandemic, maintaining physical distance from our clients and staff members can be difficult when handling animals or performing medical procedures. To ensure animals receive appropriate care, veterinarians may be regularly exposed to infected people, as well as to certain animal species that we know can be infected with COVID.
- Veterinarians oversee the care of laboratory animals, which are critical for the research, development and supply of medicines and vaccines, including vaccines against COVID-19.
If these people fall ill, medicines and vaccine supply could be seriously impacted.
- Last but not least, the large degree of public trust in veterinary professionals supports veterinarians actively sharing public health messaging about the importance of vaccination. Such messaging is most effectively conveyed if veterinarians and veterinary teams have themselves received the vaccine.
As FVE we continue to plea for a ‘One Health’ approach in practice. In many European countries, veterinarians are classed as health professionals and play an active role in fighting the pandemic. Veterinary laboratories perform COVID testing, veterinarians are part of EU and national COVID advisory committees and they are part of the WHO mission to China to find the origin of the disease. Several of the leading vaccine companies that have a COVID vaccine on the market are led by veterinarians, and recently Luxembourg passed a real ‘One Health law’ allowing health professionals to take on tasks of colleagues within the medical, dental and veterinary professions in cases of emergencies, like now. In many countries, the veterinary profession has proven to be one of the pillars of the response system to this crisis.
As FVE, we greatly applaud these actions and call for further institutionalising on the EU and national level a real One Health approach, in view of fighting COVID and future pandemics.
Working together we can be stronger and better prepared. As the veterinary profession and being a health profession, we offer our support.