Douglas County just issued their updated phase-definition for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine - listing the individuals and broad-industry categories that will be prioritized.  Many of the categories are familiar:  health care workers, law enforcement, education, and assorted front-line essential workers.  But one category came as a surprise to some; many questions have arisen on social media about the inclusion of "mink husbandry" in Douglas County's Phase 1-1B ranking - listed along with the aforementioned workers.

First - what is "mink husbandry".  There are a good number of mink farms located throughout the state of Wisconsin - with the primary end product being mink fur.  Mink fur is used in a variety of clothing items - from jackets and hats to other forms of fashionable apparel.  But the uses for mink don't end there.  Sources detail that mink is also used for oil (as in mink oil) and also for bio-fuels.

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While mink themselves (and the industry of mink farming) but not normally warrant such a high placement on a COVID-19 vaccination list, the concern with the industry is further spread of the disease.  News sources detail the link between mink and the spread of COVID-19 in the United States:

"In October, officials said an outbreak among mink on a farm in Taylor County represented the second, confirmed case in the nation of the virus among animals in an industrial farm setting. Virus outbreak among mink at a Utah farm also took place."

The news article also elaborates on the international concerns of mink and COVID-19.  A statement from the Vaccine Distribution Subcommittee of the Wisconsin State Disaster Medical Advisory Committees shares:

"International outbreaks associated with mink husbandry have resulted in
genomic changes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These changes are concerning and pose a biosecurity risk for the current vaccine campaign. Vaccine should be prioritized for this group to reduce the risk that mink variants with spike-protein mutations will spread from animals to humans and potentially reduce vaccine effectiveness."

There is also worry about mutation; that concern is specifically about mutations that could inhibit the future effectiveness of the COVID vaccine.

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