The pandemic taught us many lessons in the animal health field

The supply chain stayed strong and co-operation made it stronger, and that’s very important

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the veterinary industry realize the economic and health consequences that would occur if key products such as vaccines, implants, antimicrobials or painkillers were in short supply.
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The direct contact between veterinarians and producers and pharmaceutical reps and technical services veterinarians has begun to open up again.

Each pharmaceutical company had different restrictions on travel and rules on in-person contact and, of course, are fully abiding by the local health rules of the different provinces.

The good news is that during the pandemic, the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical supplies, as well as research and development of new products, pretty much continued unabated.

Having direct contact would have been impossible and, quite frankly, veterinary clinics (especially with curbside pickup and services) would not have wanted sales reps around anyway as it’s not essential to meet in person. However, the services that veterinarians provide were recognized as essential and company reps worked extra hard to make sure the supply of pharmaceuticals wasn’t interrupted.

It made all of us realize what economic and health consequences would occur if key products such as vaccines, implants, antimicrobials or painkillers were in short supply. And we realized that both the health of the Canadian cattle and the system that efficiently produces them could quickly come into jeopardy.

Preventing this would not have been possible without the strong supply chain and transport network.

The pandemic also made people realize that these critical products need to be supplied by more than one company and that we can ill afford for one company to be monopolistic in the market. (Please note there may be options which better fit your herd, and generally, not all the products a producer uses will come from one pharmaceutical company.)

So maintaining diversity in the supply chain is important. There are two or three mid-range pharmacy companies that are Canadian owned so support of them keeps manufacturing in Canada — which is also good when world supply of certain things comes in jeopardy.

Never forget that you can always ask hard questions of pharmaceutical reps. They are familiar with their products and can handle an array of questions on disease processes and what is going on in the cattle industry. And they have technical services veterinarians backing them up. They also are most familiar with withdrawal periods, methods of administration, biosecurity, animal welfare and food safety. Along with company websites, there is a wealth of information out there.

Getting the contact info of service reps and asking for information also reduces the workload of large-animal veterinarians, who are often overwhelmed by their workload.

Another resource are meetings of organizations such as the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Alberta Beef Producers and the Beef Cattle Research Council (which has a great blog and research info on its website).

I know some of you can’t understand why the COVID-19 vaccines were developed so quickly compared to veterinary vaccines.

But keep in mind that a massive amount of effort, cost and research went into the speedy development and licensing of the COVID vaccines. I expect even the regulatory authorities ramped up their efforts to bring a vaccine approval to the top of the pile.

I have always been somewhat disappointed in the speed which products are approved but one has to take into account safety, efficacy, and even things such as applicators and injectors. This makes us realize also what manufacturing and co-operation between the human pharmacy companies did to get several products approved and then get them manufactured and distributed to save lives.

I hope this same effort could be undertaken if some of the world’s animals suffered the same fate.

Mink farms suffered a bad fate in many cases because mink can acquire and transmit COVID-19 and it is a serious respiratory disease for them, just like people. I am not sure but once vaccine production has caught up, I am sure trials will be done to see if vaccination prevents infection in mink.

In the meantime, use your pharmaceutical rep when possible and learn of new advancements to help your production animals.

The pharmaceutical industry is a very important part of the One Health approach — which is that human health, animal health and the environment are interdependent.

In fact, the theme of this year’s Animal Health Week (Oct. 3 to 9) is, ‘Animal Health + Human Health + Planet Health = One Health.

Now, how appropriate is that.

About the author


Roy Lewis practised large-animal veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and now works part time as a technical services veterinarian for Merck Animal Health.



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