CDC announces priorities for distributing COVID-19 vaccine

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AVMA advocates for early veterinary access

A new interim guide issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that veterinary team members may have access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine in one of the early stages of distribution.

The CDC’s Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations, issued September 16, serves as an interim guide for state, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners in planning and operationalizing a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their jurisdictions.

It identifies three phases for vaccine distribution and advises that critical infrastructure workers should have access to vaccine in Phase I, following distribution to healthcare workers.

3 phases of vaccine availability

The guide identifies these three phases of vaccine availability and distribution:

Phase I assumes a limited number of doses are available and is divided into subphases I-A and I-B.

  • Phase I-A includes people serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home.
  • Phase I-B includes people who play key roles in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace, and those who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. The playbook notes that the identification of critical infrastructure workers varies by jurisdiction. Based on the descriptions and sample worksheet provided in the playbook, it’s possible that many veterinarians and teams could be accommodated in Phase I-B.

Phase II assumes a large number of doses are available and focuses on ensuring access to vaccine for members of Phase I populations who aren’t yet vaccinated, as well as for the general population. It incorporates a broader provider network and settings, including healthcare settings (doctor’s offices, clinics), commercial-sector settings (retail pharmacies), and public health venues (public health clinics, mobile clinics, and community settings).

Phase III assumes a sufficient supply of vaccine is available for the entire population. It provides for open and equitable access, encompasses a shift to a routine vaccination strategy, and includes public and private partner sites as providers.

Protect Promote Advance

Where veterinary teams fit in

Shortly before the playbook’s release, the National Academy of Sciences sought comment on a document intended to inform the playbook: Discussion Draft of the Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine. AVMA provided comments on this draft during a brief comment period (Sept. 1-4), advocating for veterinarians and veterinary team members to be considered a priority group for vaccination. AVMA’s comments used the following rationale:

  • Veterinarians and veterinary teams contribute directly to supporting the food and agriculture industries, providing services that are considered essential to continued critical infrastructure viability. In addition to providing critical support for the sufficiency and safety of our nation’s food supply, veterinarians also help ensure the health and wellbeing of the pets that share our homes. Those pets have played an important role in supporting their owners’ physical and mental wellbeing during the pandemic.
  • We are at risk of exposure. Although the veterinary profession has been creative in implementing important risk management controls 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, we may be regularly exposed to members of the public who are symptomatically or asymptomatically ill, as well as to certain animal species that we know can be infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Veterinary professionals actively protect animal and public health through surveillance for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in animals. Our surveillance function extends well beyond SARS-CoV-2, encompassing other potentially zoonotic and non-zoonotic diseases.
  • The high 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.

Powered by you: Work needed at the local level

As the CDC playbook notes, the identification of critical infrastructure workers occurs at the state and local levels, and varies by jurisdiction. That means there’s work to be done at those levels of government to help secure early veterinary access to a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available.

The voices of veterinarians and veterinary team members are important to this work. Veterinary professionals can work with our local and state veterinary associations to support prioritized access for veterinary team members in our own communities. 

Other priority groups

Veterinary professionals may be able to get even earlier access to a COVID-19 vaccine if their personal situation puts them at higher risk. People 65 or older and individuals with certain comorbidities are reported by the CDC to be at increased risk of COVID-19. When seeking vaccination,  consult with your healthcare provider regarding your potential risk for contracting COVID-19.


Sherry Billett DVM
December 11, 2020 Permalink

COVID vaccine eligibility

As an essential worker in the veterinary field, I am placing my personal heath and my staff members' health at risk every day as we stay open to continue caring for client's pets-- if the clients are in the asymptomatic category, or are less than honest with us about any symptoms or exposure they may have recently had, we have no control over exposure; compounding that are the ones who refuse to wear masks in our presence. For these reasons, veterinary professionals should be included in level/tier 1-B for vaccinations. Thank you for your assistance in making this happen in our state!

Covid Vaccine

As a RVT in the veterinary field, I feel that we are at high risk daily for contacting the Covid- 19 virus. Whether it is Symptomatic or Asymptomatic, we do have public contact daily by our valet business. We go out and get patients from the owners and their vehicles and take them back while we are masked and gloved, yet we are still in the public face. We do handle the credit cards as well. Please consider us as a high risk healthcare provider as well and include us in the early vaccination phase.

Covid vaccine eligibility

Thank you, Sherry Billett! Very well said. I totally agree with all of your comments!! Great to see you helping to lead the discussion on this important topic! I hope Kentucky will also be including us in the 1-b Phase.

Covid vaccination

I am 75 years old my wife is 65 years and practicing veterinarian how soon can we get the corona vaccine


I am the director of the animal research program at UC Berkeley. We care for Fruit Bats and Non-Human primates - two species that are susceptible to the virus. It would be good if the veterinarians, RVT's, and animal care staff in such situations could be high on the vaccine list to ensure the safety of the animals we work with as well.

Laurette O'Keefe
January 22, 2021

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


Fast tracking of COVID19 vaccines to Vet. techs., receptionists,

If you are a veterinarian who works with potential virus carriers, I certainly understand your urgent need for the vaccine However, for workers in veterinary clinics that care for domestic pets, I strongly feel that they are far less likely to contract COVID19. My 94 year old father lives in Assisted Living and has yet to receive his first dose. Neither have the site’s health care workers, those who actually work with human beings and are at much greater risk of contracting this virus. While frontline health care workers are struggling to stay safe and save human lives, two of my veterinary workers acquaintances have already received their first doses of the vaccine. One is a vet. tech. One is a veterinary receptionist. Both work in pet clinics. Neither one works with fruit bats. I find it unconscionable that these “pet” health care workers have received their first doses while front line nurses, doctors, nurses’ aides, teachers, retail workers and restaurant staffers cannot access vaccinations. The “food chain” argument does not apply to veterinary workers who do not come into contact with large farm animals. Distinctions should have been made between those who work with farm animals and the vet. clinics that, for the most part, service dogs and cats. The AVMA ‘ s lack of transparency on this issue is, at best, unethical as hospitals struggle to get doses of the vaccinations. For those who lovingly take care of our pets, the cruelty of front lining their workers as health care workers while virus victims die alone in hospital smacks of elitism and indifference to the value of Human life.

Why it is necessary

Most people believe that we veterinary professionals have nothing to do with humans in our day to day practice. This assumption is completely inaccurate, I've had many people join only to leave because they didn't realize how much we had to deal with humans. We have people inside the practice for euthanasias and other critical patient reasons. The technicians also get trapped in the parking lot trying to get a patient with anti-maskers who insist on being so close to you that you can feel their warmth. No matter how many times you tell them to back up and mask up they refuse and they keep adding things for the doctor to look at that they ABSOLUTELY have to point out to you on the patient you are holding before they allow you to take their pet inside. We are trained to use tricks to get away from our long-winded clients but sometimes you are trapped with no escape. We deal with a lot of very unhappy people who are more than happy to spit on you and get in your face screaming. I never see this kind of behavior in daytime human medicine. I believe the veterinary community is at high risk and you should probably talk to your "friends" you are speaking against for getting the covid vaccine that a large number of human medical professionals are declining before you make assumptions about what they deal with on a day to day basis. Per your post I'm assuming you do not have pets and are more than happy to let everyone else's pets die from lack of veterinary care due to many clinics having to shut down because of covid outbreaks due to their clients being careless emergencies don't happen when it's convenient for you they happen on nights, weekends and holidays that is when we are there. To all of my veterinary professionals who have worked overtime be you rDVM, specialist or emergency medicine keep fighting and educate your friends and family. Sending much love and care for those who are suffering from covid may you have a quick recovery.

Jennifer Cornell
December 12, 2020 Permalink

Covid Vaccine Eligibility

As an essential worker, veterinarian, and a veterinary hospital owner I am putting my health and my staff’s health at risk everyday so that we can continue to stay open and to provide medical care to companion animals. We have very strict protocols and sanitation practices, but still there are some circumstances where the general public (pet owners) have to be allowed to come into our building with a mask on (euthanasia for example). It is impossible to maintain a 6-foot distance in our exam rooms, so this is just one example of how veterinary teams are in high risk situations. The nature of our day to day work does not allow for 6 foot distance between employees. In order to work with animals you must be within inches of each other. Due to these challenges, we have already experienced one covid positive employee. Due to all of these obstacles and challenges, Veterinary teams should be placed in 1b category of urgency/eligibility for covid vaccine.

Vanessa Olsen, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline)
December 12, 2020 Permalink

Early vaccine eligibility

In Tucson, AZ, we are experiencing a massive increase in SARS-COV-2 cases, transmission rate, hospitalizations, and mortalities. The busy small animal and exotics practice I work for has already had the first 5 coronavirus PCR positives in the past 2 weeks, since the pandemic arrived here! In spite of curbside-only service for the past 9 months, mandatory masks, and all other recommended precautions, 2 of our 4 DVMS's have been sickened and tested positive within the last 7 days. We are still managing to help our clients and patients with a markedly diminished crew, but if we reach a "tipping point" as our manager says, we will be forced to shut down. Another nearby colleague has shut down completely due to rampant SARS-COV-2 infections. This leaves pets and clients in limbo. We are essential, we are allied health care professionals, we are at high risk, and we need to be vaccinated ASAP. Thank you for all you do to protect our members and their employees!

Rhonda Van Cleve, DVM
December 12, 2020 Permalink

Covid Vaccine Phase 1 eligibility

Veterinarians are considered essential workers and our work has a direct impact on the public health of this country. We have important roles in research, teaching, patient care, food inspection, military service and maintaining the health of animals in both the private and public sectors. We put our own health at risk in performing our job functions and should be considered front line workers. As such, we should be eligible to receive vaccinations as part of the first phase when they are available for Covid 19.

COVID 19 Vaccinations

I am an ER veterinarian in Portland. Many ERs in our city are struggling and having to shut down numerous days per week due having multiple staff members with covid and hospital outbreaks of covid. This is having a debilitating effect on our ability to provide adequate care to animals. Many times causing 24-48 hour wait times for sick animals. Many vets across the country are struggling with this. There are days I go to work and feel like I’m in a war zone due to the inability to provide adequate care to pets in emergency crisis due to the severe impact covid has had on our industry. This is a very critical problem. Veterinarian’s must be considered for vaccination in the 1B tier to help combat these issues. I am in fear that emergency veterinary hospitals will collapse and animals will continue to be in at risk situations during emergency care if we can not start slowing the effects of covid on our staffing and work environment.

Rebecca Fowler, LVT
December 18, 2020 Permalink

Covid 19 vaccines

The veterinary field should be considered for Covid 19 vaccinations as soon as possible for many of the reasons already mentioned in this thread of comments. In addition our company has more than 500 employees nationwide so we are not protected by the Families First Corona Virus Response Act which means if we become symptomatic or are exposed to Covid 19 we are not guaranteed a paycheck until we test positive for Covid 19. Many of us live paycheck to paycheck and are not eligible for paid sick time so this situation creates a financial hardship which in turn creates an environment for employees to come to work, unable to quarantine and potentially sick with Covid 19 until they receive their test results. This means we all risk potential exposure due to the fact that it can take up to 3 days or sometimes longer for test results to be received not to mention false negative or even false positive results with rapid testing for Covid 19.

Bryan Langlois, DVM
December 19, 2020 Permalink

COVID Vaccines will keep clinics open

As I have been doing more relief work of late, one thing I have noticed is that some clinics are being forced to close their doors for a period of weeks if a COVID positive or exposure happens among their staff. This of course puts a strain on the finances of a practice, but it also creates a ripple effect down the line of increased pressure on other practices and emergency clinics to pick up the extra case load. It is common in my area for some emergency clinic wait times to be over 3-4 hours or longer because of the curbside policies and increased demand for services. A local emergency clinic had to completely cease operations for 2 weeks because of COVID exposures and quarantine rules. This had an even more drastic effect on demand. For all these reasons and the ones mentioned above Veterinarians should absolutely be considered front line workers eligible to get vaccinated as soon as it is feasible.

Don Vrono D.V.M.
December 22, 2020 Permalink

Covid19 Risk

As an Equine practitioner, I do not have the luxury of having my patients dropped off in the parking lot, and brought inside by a staff member for treatment. We are forced to see the animals at the farms and owner’s houses. It is almost impossible to have social distancing while working on the horses, as the handler is sometimes less than a foot or two away from the veterinarian.


I’m sorry but I disagree...You make it clear to the owner that you do not touch their horse, cow or whatever until everyone is wearing a mask and gloves.
You set the rules for your practice...

Donald Jones
January 29, 2021

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


You set the rules for your practice

You as a veterinarian do set the rules for your practice. In a perfect world everyone would wear masks, socially distance, carry hand sanitizer, wear a face shield. It’s not perfect and if you think you can keep your practice open with your set of rules you obviously are from another planet. I wish everyone followed the rules but some clients who are elderly or uninformed don’t. You might turn them away but most honest, hard working veterinarians and their dedicated staff won’t. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

You are in absolute control…

You are in absolute control. The workers you referenced, have zero control. To be frank, you are far from the same risk levels as a veterinarians office as you are working outside, and have 10% of the same client numbers a day at best, and as a stated before, you have absolute control over the situation. At no point will someone agree with you.

blair ebert dvm
December 23, 2020 Permalink

house call veterinarians

As a house call veterinarian and sole owner of my business, I should qualify for Phase 1 approval to get the vaccine. I serve the public in their own homes to care for their animals. No excuses!

Mardi Vargofcak-Apker, DVM
December 24, 2020 Permalink

High COVID risk/House-calls

As a feline house-call veterinarian who serves nursing homes/LTC facilities, I am required to go into possibly infected people's living quarters to tend to sick/dying veterinary patients. As an older veterinarian with many pre-exiting conditions as well, this is quite stressful (I also care for a fully disabled spouse). Despite full PPE, there is always an opportunity for infection as exposure in a potentially contaminated setting can't always be kept < 10 minutes & people are not always truthful on screening questionnaires. We/veterinarians need to be in a priority COVID vaccination protocol!

Caroline Pattie
December 29, 2020 Permalink

Veterinary staff COVID vax

As a veterinarian, I am advocating for my support staff (assistants, LVTs, front desk staff) to be considered as important as the DVM for COVID vax because with curbside service THESE PEOPLE are the ones interacting with the public 95% of the time. I of course include the DVMs with these staff members in line with the importance of getting vaccinated ASAP as I find at least 1-2 times per week I am trekking to the parking lot to interact directly with a client re: a very serious/complicated matter (or just helping out my already burdened staff), but the importance and exposure of the support staff should not be downplayed with these decisions.

Giselle Pomeranc-Mayer
January 04, 2021 Permalink

Vaccinations for Veterinarians and their team

Hello I am a Veterinarian/small business owner - I own a veterinary hospital in LA county. I recently had to shut down the clinic for 10 days due to coronavirus exposure to the staff.

We are seeing the pets of 70-90 clients (who may or may not be infected) daily in tents outside our clinic. We wear masks to try to help keep us safe.

I have reached out to the various veterinary medical associations and they say there has been no guidance in LA county or California as a whole on vaccinations for Veterinarians and their support staff.

Has there been any thought for Veterinarians and their support staff to receive Coronavirus vaccines in the first/second round? I have called the local human hospitals and they say they have no idea on when or how I my staff would go about getting vaccinated because they are only making appts for human doctors.

Thanks in advance, I appreciate your help.

Covid-19 vaccine

As I read this article and the many responses above, I feel exactly as they do.
Wondering if there is any updated information regarding the Veterinary community being included in the schedule 1-B for earlier vaccines?

Veterinary staff are essential workers

I agree. Veterinarians and nurses should be considered essential workers and be eligible to get vaccines as soon as possible. Our profession is so fragile right now with outbreaks in clinics that have to shut down temporarily . Owners are waiting 3 to 5 hours at emergency clinics and often turned away if illnesses aren’t deemed urgent enough.
As a house call veterinarian and sole practitioner, I do not have the luxury of having client drop their pets off. I must enter into patients homes and at times, even though masked, work closely with the owners due to handling of their pets. I also am working very closely with my veterinary nurse(s) Who work at larger clinics and are exposed on a daily basis to potentially asymptomatic clients and even more so to their colleagues. If I am exposed and need to quarantine or become infected my entire business shuts down. I am at risk of losing my clients and my business.
Medical care is crucial for people’s four legged , feathered and scaly family members. Studies have proven that animals are crucial in their owners emotional well-being. Service animals must be able to be cared for as they perform crucial medical duties for their owners.
Please enable veterinarians and crucial staff to get vaccinated with priority.

David Maloney DVM
January 09, 2021 Permalink

Frontline worker

I practice in Arizona, which is now considered a worldwide COVID-19 hotspot. In my clinic 5 of 7 employees have had COVID-19. As one of the two that I have not I am obviously keen to get a vaccine as soon as is ethical and practical. As veterinarians I feel we are absolutely essential workers, surplus animals mean sick animals, sick animals mean sick people. We have already seen a unprecedented surge in the number of animals we are spaying and neutering this fall, almost certainly a result of the shutdowns last spring. Our appointments are booked out literally months for essential services, and vaccinating animals against diseases such as rabies is obviously time critical. I hope that Arizona and other states will consider veterinarians and staff eligible for phase 1b vaccinations.

Early Eligibility for the Veterinary Teams

I have a prime example of why we need the covid vaccine early. We are unable to work from home which should automatically qualify us to get the vaccine under phase 1. We cannot social distance at the workplace with co workers. We do see a high number of clients and we do sanitize but we get a high number of clients that wait in the lobby and that cannot social distance because of how small the lobby is. We are also inside of Petsmart. That being said we now have more people that come around the front desk area that come to ask questions. Some have on masks and some don’t and we have the right to give them masks if they don’t have one. We have had negative feedback to people complaining about not wearing masks which put our associates in harms way of Covid 19. For example , a very familiar client of ours dropped off his pet and handed the let over to the VA who at the point was not further than 6 feet part but was only there for a few seconds to take the pet out of the owners arms. The client then came over to talk to me at the front desk about his pet. He took off his mask to tell me a joke. Even though the conversation lasted a minute later that day his significant other gave us a call while his pet was under our care to tell us that the owner that had dropped off was just confirmed positive for COVID 19. You would think the owner wouldn’t have came around the public if he had a thought he could have covid and had a appointment scheduled to have a covid test done. He didn’t look or sound like he was sick. This is a example of why our Veterinary team should be considered to have the covid vaccine early. We come into contact with clients and customers ( since our vet clinic is located inside of a pet store) every day. We are unsure who is positive or not. Not to mention there are still studies trying to see if dogs are getting covid from humans. Some private clinics have only done curbside appointments all day everyday. Unfortunately we are not a private clinic and don’t have that authority to do so. Hopefully this comment is seen by the right people.

Early Eligibility for the Covid 19 Vaccine to Veterinary Teams

To my above comment , I did not mention how many facilities have had most or all of their staff have covid 19 which makes it very hard to run a business. I am a Veterinary Assistant that is part of Georgia. Our state is within top 10 of the highest cases of Covid in the U.S . It’s very important for those states that are not seeing improvement in Covid 19 cases be part of Phase 1 Vaccine consideration.


It sounds like you work at Banfield. I do as well as a RVT in Tennessee. It is totally possible for us to do curbside, and my location does, but many of the locations that struggle with doing curbside have issues with getting people to grab the pet. People not doing their jobs for whatever reason is a management issue. What we see more often is associates coming in with low intermittent fevers or other classic COVID symptoms and choosing to stay because of dumb things like they don't think they have it or they don't have any days off left and want to get paid. I even heard about a location in Georgia who had a huge outbreak because a VA did this and management allowed them to stay for like three days, and something crazy happened like a sign was put on the room they were in. Associates like that are what put us in most danger- while I cannot even imagine why anyone would do that due to selfishness, they are a bigger threat to us than our clients being outside in the petsmart lobby due to the amount of time we spend with them. And management who allows this is just as bad. I agree that we should be 1B because there are people with so much more exposure than us, like grocery store workers, who aren't even being considered. We are lucky we are getting it early at all. We also know animals can contract COVID from humans, but the only animal that can transmit back are minks. Cats and ferrets are more likely to be symptomatic than dogs. We have had actual positive cases. This is why there is an IDEXX test specific for animals.

Vets = 1A in California, but getting refused for vaccinations.

California has recently designated veterinarians and staff as 1a (same as healthcare providers). We are getting tremendous resistance, specifically from Kaiser Permanente Medical Group on getting our team immunized despite presenting them with documentation from the governors office. Non Kaiser members have been blindly directed by their PCPs to get vaccinated through the county- yet no such infrastructure exists. The arbitrary "advice" we are getting from MDs is absurd and not protecting eligible groups is the best way to keep the ICUs and morgues filled to capacity.

Covid vaccine

I am a 67 year old sole practitioner housecall veterinarian with COPD. How do I get a vaccination?

Veterinary Clinics &amp; workers are essential

We are essential - that’s what I was told. We have been in the animal hospital/clinic everyday - providing medical care - without fail - with adjusted protocols for Covid- 19.
We can not work from home. We interact with people daily - masked - but not always able to distance from clients and coworkers at times -

I contracted Covid -19 on 12/28/20 - and experienced mild to moderate symptoms.
My husband - who works from home -contracted Covid-19 on 1/11/21 -experiencing moderate symptoms with breathing difficulties
and finally - my mother -96 - who has lived with us for 27 years - contracted Covid-19 1/10/21

- she died in the hospital on 1/15/21 from COVID-19

Josephine would have been eligible for a vaccine on 1/18/21 ... if one could be found. But it’s too late.

I failed her - I got exposed, contracted the disease and it then raged through my home. I lost my mother and have feared for my husband.

The Veterinary field is considered to be in the health care field and as such must be included in the health care category and be eligible for early vaccine protocol.

Kira Salazar (Hospital Manager)
February 05, 2021 Permalink

Staff denied Vaccine

My Veterinary staff had their appointments cancelled, and were denied the Vaccine today. This particular hospital ( St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno CA) is refusing to recognise the staff as Healthcare workers, despite CA state classification. This includes our DVMs, RVTs, and our Kennel Technicians.

The staff have provided multiple documents verifying that classification, as well as proof of employment, and are not receiving any form of response from the hospital.

I've called the county and state health department, and received no assistance aside from filing a complaint. I have reached out to speak with somebody directly about the denials , but was sent to a voicemail.

This is ridiculous. Other members of staff have had no issue in getting vaccinated at other clinics, but unfortunately those clinics have no appointments available.

I hope nobody else is dealing with this issue.


A clinic receptionist is eligible to get the vaccine?

AVMA Editor
March 11, 2021

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


RE: Question

Thanks for reaching out. Please check with your state and local health departments as they would be able to best answer your question.

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