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Austin-based veterinary group offers 8,500 volunteers to CDC to distribute vaccines

Pathway Vet Alliance has locations in 37 states. Its CEO sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on Friday.

AUSTIN, Texas — Pathway Vet Alliance, a national veterinary hospital group with its headquarters and locations in Austin, sent a letter to the US. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and dozens of state governors, including Gov. Greg Abbott, offering 8,500 veterinary professionals to help administer the vaccine, if needed. Pathway has more than 390 locations across 37 states.

"I already feel like we have the best job on the planet because we get to serve people by caring for their pets. And so, how cool would it be if we could serve our pets by caring for their people?" Pathway Vet Alliance CEO Stephen P. Hadley, DVM, told KVUE. "That's pretty exciting to us whether or not they take us up on it. It's a genuine offer and we're happy to jump in and do our part to get this under control."

Hadley said in the letter to the CDC they are willing to do what they can to help the U.S. health care system in achieving the needed coronavirus vaccination goals for the population. 

In the letter, Hadley mentions how the CDC director floated the idea in an interview with a national news station and that's when Pathway decided to take the initiative to offer its services.

"Following that suggestion, I immediately gathered our senior leadership team to discuss the possibility, and we have decided to offer our facilities and personnel," said Hadley.

Hadley said Pathway offered the use of its ventilators to hospitals throughout the U.S. back in April of 2020. 

"Many people don't understand that our equipment is human equipment, so our ventilators are human ventilators. There are some custom-made for different species and things like that, but for the most part, our CTs, our MRIs, our linear accelerators used for advanced radiation therapy, they're all human machines," said Hadley. "At the time, it was pretty scary. We thought that there was going to be a real shortage of ventilators, and so everybody was trying to figure out what we could do and we offered ours up. I'm not aware that any anybody took us up on it, but it was a genuine offer. We had hospitals that were prepped and ready to go. Here again, we're happy to to be a reserve."

In the letter, Hadley said he knows the details on how this would work need to be ironed out, but this would be up to the CDC and the numerous local, state and federal government entities Pathway reached out to.

“Given the aggressive move to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days, we wanted to publicly commit our support and offer to help in any way we can," said Hadley.

When it comes to giving vaccines to people, Hadley said veterinary team members give injections all day and he believes it's a lot harder to give shots to different types of species rather than a human. 

"I think we would be well prepared to go through those training programs and make sure that we understand any nuances," said Hadley. "The anatomy and physiology is very similar."

In Tuesday's COVID-19 update with Austin-Travis County leaders, Dr. Mark Escott addressed the possibility of veterinary professionals giving out the vaccine.

"As we look at efforts to ramp up and scale up, we have to look at different options," said Escott. "We are lucky to have a large health care workforce here. As we see hospitalizations decline, it's going to increase the availability of traditional health care providers to help with vaccinations."

Escott mentions Austin-Travis County has 2,000 EMTs, EMS and Austin Fire Department members who are credentialed and can help with vaccinations. The city and county also have the option to have nursing students and medical assistants to administer vaccines.

"Certainly, we'll keep all the options on the table," said Dr. Escott.

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