Farmers and farm workers could soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania based on their essential role in ensuring the continuation of our state’s food supply.

Pennsylvania is still in Phase 1A of its vaccine rollout plan, during which the vaccine can be administered to medical and health care personnel, residents of long-term care facilities and people age 65 or older or who have certain health conditions. However, the state expected to soon shift into Phase 1B, which includes food and agricultural workers as well as other high-priority or high-risk populations.

How and when the vaccine will be rolled out to the agricultural community has yet to be announced. It is expected that within agriculture, first priority will go to individuals who most interact with other people, such as farm and food-processing workers and those in public-facing jobs.

As details about the agricultural community’s access to the vaccine become available, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau will share that information with members via email, our publications, social media and other means. Pennsylvania is currently accepting comments on its vaccine rollout plan. The plan and comment form are available here.

The choice to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is voluntary and not a mandate. Health care and public health officials have said 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. Many Pennsylvania health systems have been sharing information about the vaccine to help the public make informed choices.

The following information is based on information provided by Penn State Health:

The two vaccines being distributed in the U.S.— 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 vaccines may also help prevent more severe cases that lead to hospitalizations and death in recipients who do contract the virus but more research is needed in this area.

The 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. 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 both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna 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.

Further research is needed to determine how long the vaccine remains effective and whether it can stop someone who is exposed to the virus from spreading it to others. People who received the vaccine are encouraged to continue to follow safety protocols to protect others. The vaccine is recommended even for individuals who have already had COVID-19 infections.

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 vaccines rely on had been in development for years as researchers sought to combat other types of coronaviruses.