When it comes to caring for our animals, dairy farmers overwhelmingly believe in the science backing up vaccinations. If Americans had the same mindset in obtaining vaccinations against COVID-19, the pandemic would be in our rearview mirror.

Dairy farmers have issued a strong vote of confidence for vaccines throughout the decades. In a 2001 Hoard’s Dairyman survey, 90.2% of our readers vaccinated their calves, heifers, and cows. In our annual survey to 3,000 readers 10 years later, vaccination rates climbed to 94.6%. When we asked that identical question during the heart of the pandemic, vaccination rates remained within decimal points of that earlier figure. The only metric that changed is that dosage levels climbed to an all-time high in 2021.

The majority of the medical community believes we need to achieve vaccination rates over 70% in the human population to achieve “herd immunity” against COVID-19. The term herd immunity most certainly stems from the veterinary and farming communities that have long relied on vaccines to keep viruses at bay.

Vaccines are not perfect. Vaccines foster immunity by training the body to recognize a virus more quickly and mount a defense against the invaders. Those who have been vaccinated are often sick for shorter durations and suffer far fewer side effects.

It’s mind boggling to us that vaccination rates for the human population in major dairy states don’t even come close to vaccination rates found on our farms. While it’s true that nationally 70% of Americans have one shot in the arm against COVID-19, a mere 50% have received a second dose. That means few states can lay claim to herd immunity, and as a result, the virus will run rampant through the human population.

Among the top 10 dairy states, California, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington rank among the best in the nation, with COVID-19 vaccination rates over 63%. Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, and Minnesota stood in the middle of the pack between 56% and 59%, according to the Mayo Clinic. Regrettably, only one state, Mississippi, ranks lower than Idaho, with vaccination rates against COVID-19 at 41.5%.

Many of us in the dairy community clearly believe in vaccinations — if we didn’t, we would not be spending the money to vaccinate our dairy herds. It behooves all of us to lead by example and get our vaccinations. Then we should share that story with our staff, friends, and neighbors as the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh any consequences.