Update: The OAVT has received word from the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit that the vaccinator job opportunity has been updated to only include final year veterinary technician students at this time.
A need for more people qualified to administer the COVID vaccine shots has led Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health to approve registered veterinary technicians (RVT) for the role.
The Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT) announced all RVTs and final year RVT students have been given permission by public health to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be a stepping stone,” said Phil Nichols, president of the OAVT board of directors and an RVT, “and kind-of that first out the gate that helps to set the trend, and shows the value and benefits of working across professional borders to really meet that goal and that collective end.”
Currently, WDG public health is looking to hire 25 workers for the casual employment role of ‘vaccinator.’ Those hired will be given additional training and shadowing for the role.
Nichols explains that there are strong connections between human health and animal health that make RVTs suitable.
“We do have that education and our medical skills training, although it’s on animals and not people, we’re all mammals,” he explains, “and that PPE, biosecurity training, all of those things, they’re all transferable skill sets.”
Besides RVTs, dental hygienists, pharmacists and dietitians can also apply to become a vaccinator according to the job posting on the local Public Health web site.
Nichols adds the idea for RVTs to help administer vaccines developed through interest from members of the OAVT.
“It originally started with a number of our members reaching out to the office and expressing an interest in wanting to help, or asking the OAVT to reach out to see if there is something we can do to better combat the efforts of COVID,” he said.
In January, the OAVT sent a survey to its 4,000 members to ask about their interest in supporting vaccination programs. Of the roughly 1,000 RVTs who responded, 72 per cent were in favour of helping public health by supporting provincial vaccination efforts.
After reaching out to WDG Public Health with their survey findings, Nichols said RVTs were approved for applying to these positions within public health a week later.
“It was like, ‘Wow that was super quick!’” he recalls, “It only took a week when normally it would take so much longer for things to move.”
Nichols also mentions RVTs helping to administer these vaccines won’t interfere with providing animal care at veterinary clinics.
“There’s a number of our members who are currently working in private practice industries,” said Nichols, “But we do have a number of members….that work in other industries... working with insurance companies, telemedicine consultation roles, private businesses where they’re doing at home and in home care support for different pets and that sort-of thing, who are also interested in taking part.”
He also adds the lockdowns have a direct impact on all services RVTs provide to owners and pets, that the sooner they can reduce transmission rates and increase vaccination numbers, the better care they can provide for animals.
“There are those non-essential services that are still valuable for the owner and the pet that need to happen, but they may not be critical for those life-or-death types of situations,” explains Nichols.
“The quicker we can get everyone to a better point of safety, the quicker we can get back to doing all of those full services that we want to help support the pets in our communities.”