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.