“Talk to your doctor” might be key to easing concerns about the vaccine
Primary care doctors say they could do more to help vaccines reach people who are hesitant or may have trouble accessing mass vaccination sites and mobile clinics. | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images“Talk to your doctor” might be key to easing concerns about the vaccine. Here are four important words in the next phase of America’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign: “Talk to your doctor.”
The US is reaching a tipping point in its vaccination drive. There will soon be more shots available than people coming to get them, if there aren’t already. “Most states appear to be at or near ... the point at which their supply is outstripping demand,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jennifer Kates, Anna Rouw, and Josh Michaud wrote in a new analysis.
The easy part is winding down. Americans who were able and eager to get the vaccines have had weeks to get their shot. Now comes the hard work: persuading people who can be persuaded to get vaccinated, and reaching the disadvantaged patients who have still lacked easy access to a vaccine.
Primary care doctors say they can play an important role in meeting both goals. Surveys show people who are taking a “wait and see” approach to the vaccine can be convinced by their doctor that it’s safe and effective. Even doctors who are unable to give a vaccine themselves are more likely to know which patients may need extra assistance.
“We need to be part of the plan,” said Ada Stewart, a doctor in South Carolina and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, adding that she was grateful the Biden administration had been engaging more with physicians. “I wish it had happened sooner.”
How to distribute and administer vaccines is a state-by-state decision, but so far states have largely focused their vaccine campaigns on mass sites, mobile clinics, and commercial pharmacies. The New York Times reported in early February that primary care doctors were already frustrated they were not being utilized more in the vaccination drive.
That may finally be changing, but it can still be a slow process. “There is not that steady stream or supply of vaccine that has trickled down to make it available at multiple sites,” says George Abraham, a Massachusetts doctor and president of the American College of Physicians.
In Boston, Abraham said, thousands of doses are still being targeted to mass sites such as those set up in Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. But the state is shifting its strategy, setting a goal to close mass vaccination sites and move doses to physician offices and community clinics by the end of June.
The Biden White House recently announced its plans to push more vaccines into the community, trying to reach Americans where they are. The goal, experts say, should be for every contact with the health system to come with the offer of a vaccine. Achieving the necessary level of immunizations may still require more, but it’s a start as we shift into this more difficult stage of the campaign.
“New strategies are likely needed,” Kates told me. “The more touch points, the better, and since we know ... people would be most comfortable going to their doctor’s office to get vaccinated, these will be important touch points.”
People say they are more likely to get the Covid-19 vaccine from their doctor
Primary care doctors are already a valuable vanguard in getting Americans their routine vaccinations. They traditionally provide about half of all adult immunizations in the US, per the New York Times. But physicians have arguably been underutilized in the Covid-19 effort.
The logic of massive vaccination sites was sound early in the campaign, Abraham says. Capable of administering thousands of doses per day, such sites are more efficient, and when there was more constricted supply, it made sense to focus those doses on the locations that would deliver the most bang for the buck.
But those temporary sites were not for everybody. We were asking some people to drive 75 miles or more one way to get a vaccine. Abraham gave the example of one of his patients, an 86-year-old Latino man with lung disease who relies on a constant supply of oxygen. He can drive, but he wouldn’t be able to drive to the mass site, wait in line, and then drive back without running out of air. The patient also doesn’t have internet access, making it harder to sign up for an appointment unless he was willing to wait on hold over the phone.
Physicians can play a critical role now, Abraham says, in “identifying people who are economically disadvantaged [or] have more difficulty getting to appointments, and how they could best be served.”
They can also persuade. Among people who hadn’t yet gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, their doctor’s office was the place where they said they were most likely to get a shot, according to a February survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Black and Hispanic Americans were both substantially more likely to say they would get the vaccine from their doctor than at a community
May 6, 2021 - VOX
Primary care doctors say they could do more to help vaccines reach people who are hesitant or may have trouble accessing mass vaccination sites and mobile clinics. | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images“Talk to your doctor” might be key to easing concerns about the vaccine. Here are four important words in the next phase of America’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign: “Talk to your doctor.” The US is reaching a tipping point in its vaccination drive. There will soon be more shots..