Farmers and workers on farms and throughout the food supply chain are now eligible to receive any of the three available coronavirus vaccines, Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced today.
That means that members of the food and agriculture community can now sign up for appointments to receive the vaccine at any of the vaccine provider locations in their community.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is maintaining a map of vaccine providers (available below), which include pharmacies, urgent care centers and hospitals, doctor’s offices, and mass vaccination sites that have been set up in some counties. Those without internet access can call the Health Hotline at 1.877.PA.HEALTH (1.877.724.3258).
Among those who are now eligible are all farmworker, farm operators, farm managers (including urban agriculture operations), as well as employees of food processors and manufacturers and grocery stores. As part of the state’s new, accelerated vaccine strategy, eligibility for other priority groups will also be moved up and all Pennsylvanians will be eligible to receive the vaccine by April 19. Being eligible to receive the vaccine does not guarantee an immediate appointment and availability may vary between regions.
Farm Bureau has supported including farmers and agricultural workers among priority groups to receive the vaccine.
“Farmers, their employees and frontline workers throughout the food supply chain have continued to work throughout this pandemic to produce the food that we all rely upon,” Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert said. “By further protecting the health and safety of frontline workers in food and agriculture, Pennsylvania is also protecting our food supply and the state’s number one industry.”
The choice to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is voluntary and not a mandate. But health care and public health officials have stressed that widespread vaccination will be essential to curbing the spread of virus, preventing further deaths and hospitalizations and leading to the lifting of restrictions and reopening of Pennsylvania’s economy.
Farm and food workers were among several priority groups that were made eligible as of March 31. Also included are law enforcement personnel and both career and volunteer firefighters. Essential workers in other targeted industries will be eligible beginning April 5 and April 12 according to the state’s vaccine rollout plan and all others will be eligible April 19.
Still learning about the vaccine? Here’s some important information to know:
How do vaccinations help stop the COVID-19 pandemic?
Getting vaccinated protects you by significantly reducing the likelihood that you will become infected with COVID-19 and reducing even more the chance that you will have a severe case that results in significant complications or death. It protects those around you by reducing the chance you will spread the virus. As more people are vaccinated, we will build herd immunity, preventing the virus from spreading in the community.
Where can I get vaccinated?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s map can be accessed below. Those without internet access can call the Health Hotline at 1.877.PA.HEALTH (1.877.724.3258). You can also check with your county government or health systems in your region to learn if there are any mass vaccination sites near you.
What vaccines are available?
Three vaccines have been approved for Emergency Use Authorization, which allows medical products that have not gone through full Food and Drug Administration approval to be used in response to a public health emergency.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are approved for people age 16 and older and are delivered in two doses spaced several weeks to a month apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved for those age 18 and older and is delivered in a single dose.
Are the vaccines safe?
In order to apply for and receive such authorization, vaccine manufacturers must demonstrate that they have studied and collected the required amount of data on the safety of the vaccine, a requirement that all three vaccines have met.
As with other vaccines, people who get the COVID-19 vaccine may experience some side effects as a result of their bodies building protection. The most common are sore arm, fatigue, headache, chills and fever and should go away in a few days.
Are the vaccines effective?
All three vaccines are considered effective at significantly reducing COVID-19 infections and reducing the likelihood of serious cases.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been found in clinical trials to have efficacy rates of 95 percent and 94.5 percent respectively when delivered in two doses. Efficacy rate refers to the percentage by which the disease is reduced in a vaccinated population versus an unvaccinated population in a clinical trial. So a 95 percent efficacy rate means that there were 95 percent fewer new cases of COVID-19 in the vaccinated group compared with the unvaccinated group.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested using a different type of trial and under different circumstances making it difficult to compare apples-to-apples to the other two. It was found to be 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 after one month but had 100 percent efficacy against hospitalizations and death.
How were the vaccines available so soon?
While the vaccines made it through their final phase of trials in record time, the effort benefited from a concentrated, global focus on quickly developing the vaccine accompanied by major public and private investments. In addition, scientific advancements enabled researchers to identify the strain of the virus early in the pandemic and the new messenger RNA technology that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines rely on had been in development for years as researchers sought to combat other types of coronaviruses.
Do I still need to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines after getting vaccinated?
Public health experts recommend that vaccinated people continue to follow COVID-19 mitigation protocols when out in public as research is ongoing about the degree to which the vaccines prevent recipients from spreading the coronavirus.