National food and agriculture groups want COVID-19 vaccine priority

Organizations also ask for a 'federally orchestrated’ vaccine distribution program

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, Nurse Kathe Olmstead, right, gives volunteer Melissa Harting, of Harpersville, N.Y., an injection as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. An influential scientific panel on Tuesday, Dec. 1, is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: When the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots? (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

RALEIGH — Food industry and agriculture groups want to be considered as priority recipients once a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, according to a mid-November letter penned by 15 organizations and sent to President Donald Trump.

The letter to the president was posted on the United Fresh Produce Association’s website and praised the early efforts of the Trump administration to prioritize food producers and workers as “critical infrastructure.”

A letter on the topic was also sent to presumptive President-elect Joe Biden.

The organizations who signed onto the letter included various food industry associations, baking, brewing, retail associations, restaurants and agricultural groups, such as the North American Meat Institute.

Our members have been on the front lines of the response to the pandemic by continuing operations and ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food,” the letter reads. “Challenges have taxed the food supply chain over the past eight months, but the food, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail industries are resilient, and the supply chains have not broken.”

“Once a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, it is imperative that we have a federally orchestrated vaccine distribution program and prioritization of vaccination among population groups,” the letter says. 

Referenced in the letter is the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations. According to the letter, the groups ask the Trump administration to use that playbook to begin public relations and education efforts to ensure “widespread and sustained acceptance of vaccinations.

Additionally, the groups suggest that the administration “leverage state and local cooperative public health organizations, such as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and National Association of County and City Health Officials” to aid in nationwide communication about the vaccine.

On Nov. 25, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their guidance on which populations will receive priority once a vaccine is approved. The CDC currently has designated healthcare personnel, workers in essential and critical industries, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older as priority groups.

The CDC also laid out four goals should the vaccine supply be limited. Those goals include decreasing death and serious disease as much as possible, preserving the functioning of society, reducing the extra burden the disease is having on people already facing disparities, and increasing the chance for everyone to enjoy health and well-being.

About A.P. Dillon 531 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_