The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reached the milestone of administering one million COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country. This occasion comes on the heels of the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement that nearly 150 million people in the United States have been vaccinated.
In responding to President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to designate federally supported community vaccination centers across the country, USDA has continuously offered its clinical staff, facilities, cold chain infrastructure, public health experts, and disaster response specialists.
USDA has also intentionally used its footprint in rural areas, tribal communities, and with socially disadvantaged groups to put equity at the forefront of its outreach. Equity is central to communities and people being disproportionately infected and killed by the pandemic receiving the COVID-19 vaccines they need and deserve.
Over the last 2.5 months, 1034 USDA personnel have been deployed to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign – a massive effort by the federal government to administer vaccines in collaboration with states, cities, Tribal communities, and private industry. Currently, 454 USDA personnel are deployed, across more than a dozen states, and through Emergency Support Functions (ESF), created to provide the structure for coordinating Federal interagency support for a Federal response to an incident. USDA’s Forest Service is coordinating the deployment of 391 interagency personnel and contractors for the vaccination campaign.
Members of the USDA workforce who are deployed across the country have had the opportunity to share their experiences with Secretary Tom Vilsack and other Senior USDA officials. Each had their own anecdotes of what it meant to be playing their part in getting the country back on track.
Dr. Maria Esteras, a Veterinary Medical Officer with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), was previously deployed in the field helping with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. During her 13-year career with FSIS, she has always been proud of their role in protecting the public’s health and impacting millions of people around the world every day.
During her deployment, Dr. Esteras was surprised to find out that she would have the opportunity to vaccinate her husband, who would ask the question “how many lives did you save today?” each time she would return home.
On the day Dr. Esteras administered the COVID-19 vaccine to her husband, she was able to tell him “today, I saved your life.”
Public servants, like Dr. Maria Esteras and so many others, have made it possible to administer this impressive number of COVID-19 vaccines and help restore hope in communities across the country following a year of uncertainty.
The USDA workforce remains committed to providing equitable access to the resources needed to contain this pandemic and get the economy back on track.
1 million shots down. Millions more to go.
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I am glad that I have participated in early development of message RNA (mRNA) vaccine platform at University of Pennsylvania. I am proud that my former lab (Dr Drew Weissmann's lab at Penn) developed this disruptive mRNA vaccine technology and licensed this novel vaccine platform to Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Inc to save million lives during COVID-19 pandemic. It is the most impressive event in my whole life to administer the vaccine product developed by my former Penn lab in collaboration with Pfizer/BioNTech into people's arms as a vaccinator in Waldorf, MD.