Skip to main content

U.S. flag An official website of the United States government

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

Cabo Rojo Native Assists with National Vaccination Efforts

APHIS employees assist with COVID vaccination efforts


WASHINGTON, April 5, 2021 -- When President Biden recently announced his goal of distributing 100 million COVID-19 vaccines to Americans in the first 100 days of his Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was one of the many Federal agencies that answered the call to help. Working through FEMA, APHIS immediately began deploying veterinarians to administer vaccines and other employees to assist in the logistics of running vaccination centers.

Dr. Mario MercadoOne of these veterinarians was Dr. Mario Mercado, a native of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, who currently lives and works in Miami, FL. Mercado traveled to Las Vegas, NV and spent a month vaccinating individuals at one of the large vaccination centers there.

“This turned out to be the most amazingly satisfying mission I’ve ever participated in during my 27+ years of Federal service,” said Mercado. “I am fortunate to be trilingual, and I was able to help many Nevadans that were solely Spanish-speakers. This was the right thing to do and everyone in the nation is benefitting from this mission.”

To date, APHIS has deployed (both physically and virtually) over 400 employees to assist vaccination centers in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The responders are fulfilling various needs – with qualified individuals giving vaccinations in some areas, and others completing tasks such as preparing vaccines, planning and logistics, and acting as safety officers and floor managers.

Mercado was especially proud of the opportunity he had to vaccinate a group of veterans.

“As a veteran myself, and while vaccinating so many veterans here, I was really touched,” said Mercado. “They all had such immense gratitude for the work we were doing. In the few minutes of interacting with those heroes from Korea, Vietnam, and a few from World War II, and listening to their stories, I understood that we really are one Nation.”

Mercado’s regular position with APHIS is a Veterinary Medical Officer with Animal Care. APHIS has a proven record of responding to emergencies, including various emergencies that threaten animal and plant health in the United States. More information about the Agency is available at

APHIS will continue to support these vaccination efforts as long as needed. Every Wednesday, USDA issues a factsheet that contains the latest information about the efforts of APHIS, as well as other USDA agencies that are providing support for the vaccination efforts. The factsheet may be found in the USDA Newsroom at Press Releases | USDA

*Group Photo DetailsAPHIS-Employees Deployed to the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, NV receive a briefing in preparation for their work.  (APHIS file photo)

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

Complementary Content