Last night, in his address to the nation on the next phase of the National Strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic response, President Biden focused on the effort to accelerate vaccination, and said that the plans to expand the pool of qualified personnel eligible to administer vaccines will include veterinarians and veterinary students.
The AVMA has been advocating actively at the federal level on behalf of veterinarians as the COVID-19 crisis has evolved. We’re committed to help you understand what this new development means for you and your teams – and to continue to advocate on your behalf.
Enabling veterinarians to assist with vaccination efforts
As the conversation about having veterinarians assist with COVID-19 vaccinations has accelerated over the past several months, the AVMA has been in direct conversations with the teams responsible for coordinating the vaccine response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On February 17, AVMA submitted a formal request to HHS asking that veterinary professionals be listed as a “qualified person” in connection with the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), which authorizes the HHS secretary to issue emergency public health declarations and provides limited immunity from liability to those covered under the act.
AVMA’s message has been consistent: If veterinarians are to be asked to help administer COVID-19 vaccines to people, veterinarians need to be clearly authorized to do so – and they must be explicitly included among those covered by the liability immunity.
We’re pleased to tell you that AVMA’s efforts have been successful. The acting HHS secretary today issued an amendment to the PREP Act declarations that specifically addresses veterinarians and veterinary students.
What you should know about today’s action
- It allows veterinarians licensed in any state to administer COVID-19 vaccines in any jurisdiction in association with a vaccination effort by a state, local, tribal, or territorial authority or by an institution in which the COVID-19 vaccine is administered.
- This also applies to veterinarians whose license or certification has become inactive, expired or lapsed within the last five years. The intent is to include recently retired veterinarians who may want to help.
- It also applies to veterinary students with appropriate training in administering vaccines.
- This amendment preempts any state law that would otherwise prohibit these veterinarians and students from prescribing, dispensing, or administering COVID-19 vaccines.
- Veterinarians and veterinary students will be afforded liability protections in accordance with the PREP Act and the terms of the amendment. These liability protections apply from March 11, 2021, through October 1, 2024. Specific conditions must be met in order for the authorization to administer the vaccines and the liability protections to apply.
- Veterinarians and veterinary students must be participating in association with a COVID-19 vaccination effort by a state, local, tribal, or territorial authority, or by an institution in which the vaccine is administered.
- Additional specific requirements also must be met, such as having basic certification in CPR, completing the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination modules, and undergoing an observation period.
- A separate section of the declaration applies to those in the uniformed services and for federal employees, contractors and volunteers.
- While the liability outlined in the PREP Act is broad, it doesn’t apply to willful misconduct, and the federal government does not provide a legal defense in the event that you are sued. Your state may have separate liability protections, along with separate requirements to qualify, and may or may not provide a legal defense. Veterinary malpractice will not likely respond to claims arising from a veterinarian intentionally vaccinating people against COVID-19.
AVMA is working to develop additional resources to assist those who choose to volunteer in this effort, such as guidance on CPR certification and other requirements. Please check in regularly at avma.org/Coronavirus for developing information.
The following federal government resources also provide additional information: