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USDA helping with COVID-19 vaccination rollout

USDA helping with COVID-19 vaccination rollout

APHIS has deployed 119 employees across multiple states

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The United States Department of Agriculture is among the federal departments helping with the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has sent 119 employees to different states to assist with vaccine distribution.

Most APHIS employees are in Nevada and Oklahoma, two states that have mobile teams and pop-up vaccination clinics. Others have been sent to Texas and some have been virtually deployed to help plan vaccination efforts in Washington State and Oregon and to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mike Watson, acting APHIS administrator, said in a Feb. 17 letter.

“Most deployments are lasting 30 days, but we expect several rounds of deployments may be needed to help achieve the president’s goal,” Watson wrote. “We will also be reaching out to USDA’s accredited veterinarians to seek additional volunteers who have the sills to help this nationwide effort.

President Biden’s plan is to distribute 100 million vaccines to Americans within the first 100 days of his presidency. Feb. 19 marks his 31st day as president.

To help meet this goal, the White house is distributing 13.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines per week, up from 11 million per week. And close to 2 million doses will go directly to retail pharmacies, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

Lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to make members of the U.S. ag community a priority when it comes to receiving the vaccines.

Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and others sent a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, outlining the importance of ensuring people working in agriculture receive vaccinations in a timely manner.

“This must be done in order to both adequately ensure their health and safety while also guaranteeing the continuity of food production and distribution in the U.S.,” the Feb. 17 letter states.

Industry groups are encouraging people who work in the sector to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The National Pork Producers Council on Wednesday launched its “You’re Essential, So It’s Essential” campaign to encourage people in the pork industry to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The campaign includes a multi-lingual website with information about the vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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