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How’s your state’s vaccine rollout going?

In most places, the COVID vaccine rollout is confused at best.

Last fall, the federal government issued guidelines that broke the vaccine rollout into phases in an attempt to balance the needs of people at high risk with those of essential workers, while also taking into consideration a limited supply of vaccines.

Fair enough.

Phase 1A included healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B included people classified as frontline essential workers, such as firefighters and police officers, as well as people aged 75 years and older.

Phase 1C included people aged 65–74 years, people aged 16–64 with underlying health conditions, and other essential workers, such as people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, information technology, communications, and public health.

Veterinary healthcare workers were not specifically identified in any of those phases.

That left it up to individual states to figure out where to put them. The AVMA and many state veterinary associations have advocated that veterinary staff be classified as 1B.

Not all states agree. While many, like Colorado, designate them as 1B (albeit in the second half), and some, like Oregon, designate them as 1A (group 4), a few others still haven’t made up their minds. Vermont, for example, took their cue from the federal government and didn’t mention veterinary professionals at all.

And once a state does decide which category veterinary workers belong in, the vaccine is actually distributed on a county level, and every county does it a little differently.

Even if you know your category, it can still be difficult to impossible to schedule an appointment for a vaccine because the federal government doles out doses one week at a time, which means some states don’t know from week to week whether they’ll have enough doses to even schedule an initial vaccination—never mind the required booster shot four weeks later.

Even the most critically needed workers can’t get vaccinated if there’s no vaccine.

NEWStat checked in with AAHA members across the US to see where they were in the vaccination process. Some, in states like California—which defined veterinary staff as Phase 1A “healthcare workers”—have received their initial vaccination and a lucky few have even gotten the booster.

Leslie Boudreau, practice manager at AAHA-accredited Animal Hospital of Huntington Beach in Huntington Beach, California, said staff members started scheduling their vaccinations on January 8 after learning that veterinary staff in California were in tier 1A. Then they got the news on January 15 that veterinary staff had been bumped down to tier 1B. She said 10 of the hospital’s 50 staff members managed to get vaccinated before the downgrade. The rest will have to wait, and they have no idea when that will happen.

And reclassification also appears to depend on what county you’re in. Many in California are still 1A. “The vaccine has been a 💩 show in California,” Boudreau wrote in a Facebook message to NEWStat.

And New York . . . well, New York is a mess all its own.

Tim Atkinson, executive director of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, told NEWStat that, while the status of veterinary workers has not changed (they’re still in 1b), the schedule for vaccinations has.

And more than once.

“Initially [Governor Cuomo] said they would do 1A first, then 1B,” Atkinson said. “The next day, he said they would start on 1B at the same time as 1A but only those in 1B who had public-facing contact as a part of their work,” Atkinson said. The kicker? “The State has directed that [because] veterinarians use curbside check-in; they don’t fit in the first phase of 1B.”

Jayme Motler, DVM, owner of AAHA-accredited Pleasant Valley Animal Hospital in Pleasant Valley, New York, observed that veterinarians in New York may have done curbside “too well.”

So as it stands in New York—and much of the country—many in the profession are still waiting to find out when they can expect to be vaccinated.

We’ll keep you posted.

To be continued . . .

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