Paris, 9 July 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the international community to reconsider
how health professionals can address disease emergencies in a more
coordinated way. As human health systems throughout the world have strained
under ongoing pressure, veterinarians have been offering their skills and
expertise to help fight against the pandemic.
This collaboration between animal and human health sectors is a great
example of implementation of the One Health approach, as it recognises the
need to join forces and capacities on common health objectives shared by both
human and animal health sectors. While some veterinarians have supported the
testing of human samplings, others have provided human health care
professionals with life-saving personal protective equipment and respirators.
By researching the origins of COVID-19, and conducting passive surveillance
of animals, particularly those highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 (such as mink
and other mustelids), veterinarians have also contributed to the world’s
understanding of this complex virus.
In addition to their numerous contributions to the global response to
COVID-19, veterinarians have strived to pursue their daily mission to ensure
the health and welfare of animals, as well as public health. This
multi-faceted profession has played a key role in guaranteeing the continued
safety of food production chains, sufficient access to food and the security
of traded animals and animal products worldwide since the start of the
crisis. Despite this valuable support to the health emergency response and
the economy, veterinarians have been excluded from access to priority
vaccinations in some countries.
Today, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World
Veterinary Association (WVA) call on countries to include veterinarians as
priority professionals for COVID-19 vaccination within their national
strategies and vaccination campaigns. By doing so, countries ensure that
- health emergency
workforce is safe, as veterinarians have the skills and expertise to support
national COVID-19 response strategies, including
the administration of vaccines to humans and the
testing of human samples;
- food production chains are
maintained, as veterinarians are critical
personnel to ensure safe animal production and food
- national risk management strategies
are well-respected, as veterinarians are in close
contact with farmed animal species (such as mink and other mustelids), or
with endangered species and wildlife which are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Avoiding the
exposure of these animals to SARS-CoV-2 prevents the development of new
animal reservoirs and future spillovers of the virus to humans. As a
reminder, there is currently no evidence that companion animals, such as cats or dogs, are playing an epidemiological role in
the spread of human infections of COVID-19.
Through the inclusion
of veterinarians in priority vaccination access groups, countries support a
coordinated One Health response to the COVID-19 crisis. This heightened collaboration between animal
and human health professionals is key to overcoming the current pandemic as
well as to preventing future outbreaks.