Including Animal Health Companies and Employees as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Pandemic Response

March 21, 2020

As governments at all levels consider various options of restricting movement of personnel in public and private entities, we ask that the Animal Health Industry and related distribution be considered an essential business and service and be exempt from gathering bans and curfews.

As already noted by the President, critical infrastructure industries include companies that contribute to our “healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply …”   Many of the country’s largest local jurisdictions have already determined that “all healthcare services provided to animals” are essential services that must remain open and functioning during this crisis.

The animal health industry develops and manufactures needed animal health products, including drugs, vaccines, hygiene products, diagnostics, support tools, sensors and identification tools and other materials and products for farm animals and pets.  Our industry plays an integral and fundamental role in maintaining the health, safety, security and sustainability of our food supply and, in so doing, contributes in an essential way to public health.   In addition, maintaining the health of pets is critical due to the proximity in which we live with them, and the important role they play in citizens’ everyday life and well-being.  While Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by SARS-CoV-2, is only transmitted from person to person, other illness can spread between animals and people.   For this reason, it’s important that the health of animals is protected, and the manufacturing and distribution of animal health products continues with minimal disruption that could affect availability of these needed products.

As noted above, guidance issued by the President on March 16 stated that workers in critical infrastructure industries “such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply,” have a special responsibility to maintain normal work schedules.  We ask your help in allowing us to do this by ensuring clear messaging that pharmaceutical and biologic research, development and production facilities, including animal health product manufacturers, are encouraged to continue with their important work including the ability to cross state borders if living and working in different states.  We take seriously the health of our employees: anyone showing symptoms of disease or who has been in close contact with anyone showing symptoms will be asked to remain home and self-quarantine. Concurrently, we ask that the animal care, research, development and testing facilities, transportation of product intended for use in the research and manufacturing of animal medicines, warehouses, distribution centers, and other indispensable parts of the supply chain be considered equally critical.

Animal health manufacturing and research facilities are highly-regulated and must maintain a high level of biosecurity as part of their normal operations.  The practices that these companies already have in place to maintain the biosecurity of their facilities will also assist in reducing the risk of the spread of novel viruses.  Moreover, many of our member companies have already proactively taken action to combat the spread of COVID-19 by, for example: (1) restricting on-site access only to employees who are involved in manufacturing and research and development (to lessen the risk for those workers); (2) requiring employees who have traveled or have possible symptoms to stay at home; and (3) educating employees on the importance of social distancing and other preventative measures.

The animal health industry is committed to continuing to cooperate with authorities to implement social distancing and remote work capabilities wherever possible.  Still, the importance of the role of animal medicines in guarding public health and keeping the food chain secure and healthy demands certain important functions, such as those listed above, continue.

We highly recommend that firms involved in the research, development, production and distribution of animal health products, be classified as Tier 1 Essential and their staff allowed to continue their efforts to serve the needs of our citizens, our animals, and our food supply, as well as to serve and sustain our economy.  AHI companies will continue to collaborate with Federal, State, and local health authorities to keep them informed of any supply issues as they arise.