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When COVID-19 hit Pennsylvania, we saw the commonwealth and the world adopt practices largely borrowed from the agricultural biosecurity playbook.

As farmers, we’re used to managing risk through written biosecurity plans to protect our operations. Maps to limit contact and movement. Practicing good hygiene, disinfecting equipment. And, if needed, quarantine.

And just as we rely on experts, like veterinarians, to help guide biosecurity planning, the world has relied on medical experts.

Veterinarians help us plan. They offer sound advice on how to keep our animals in the very best health, including which inoculations to consider for optimum herd or flock health. Because ultimately, we need to protect all of them — the health of one is linked to the health of the whole, the health of the whole linked to our success and ultimately the security of food in the commonwealth and the world.

Now, much of Pennsylvania agriculture is next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to the approval by Gov. Tom Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force to use the next round of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for front-line workers, including those in food and agriculture. The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved this one-shot vaccine for targeted administration. In fact, you may have seen the announcements about educators in Pennsylvania receiving the same prioritization in recent weeks.

For this targeted administration, food and agriculture is defined as all food processing employees, including meat, poultry and dairy processing; fresh fruit and vegetable packing operations; and food and feed manufacturing. It also includes all farmworkers, farm operators, farm managers, and urban agriculture operations.

We’re working now with the Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to identify how and where vaccination opportunities will take place, but every county will have at least one local vaccination site available to those who are eligible.

Protect Your Family and Employees

As we have witnessed, stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system, so your body is ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The COVID-19 vaccination combined with following other recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the best protection from COVID-19.

If you’ve already had COVID-19, the vaccine is still recommended. While we’ve learned a lot about this virus over the past year, experts are still learning and do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.

So, as the vaccine becomes available in early April, I want you to step up to protect your family and employees that sustain your operation and are integral to sustaining life in the commonwealth and beyond.

You’ve labored through a pandemic as the community and world relied on you.

In fields, barns, packing houses, and processing plants.

Just as science and innovation have been transformative to strengthening the resiliency of agriculture, we now have access to a single dose vaccine that can be equally as transformative to our human race. We’re all connected.

Please take advantage of this opportunity to protect your family and employees.

Thank you for feeding Pennsylvania through our darkest days. With the vaccine, we can now see the light and a brighter, stronger Pennsylvania ahead.

Russell Redding is Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture.

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