Doctor group urges state to allocate more COVID-19 vaccines to primary care physicians

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of medical leaders is calling on the state to designate more doses of COVID-19 vaccines to family physicians.

“I think if we can expand vaccine allocation to all the family physicians around the state, especially smaller rural communities where the trust in their family physician is so high, that they will follow the advice so we can help to end this pandemic,” explained Dr. Pamela Rockwell, the medical director of Family Medicine at Domino’s Farms.

The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians hosted a virtual roundtable meeting Monday morning to discuss why they believe distributing more shots to those primary care providers could fight the ongoing pandemic more effectively.

“We’re seeing more and more people getting vaccinated, and also as of this week and in early April, more people can be eligible to get the vaccine. We’re seeing a lot of vaccine hesitancy still, so we think that getting family medicine physicians involved with vaccinating the public will be actually key to getting herd immunity for COVID-19,” Mark Hamed, president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, said before the roundtable.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed March 21-27 Family Medicine Week. Because Michigan’s family physicians play an important role in combatting communicable diseases, the group wants to do more to help by administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hamed says studies show that more than half of Americans get their vaccines from their primary care provider.

“I’m an ER doctor as well, so I always hear misinformation about the vaccine and stories that aren’t even applicable,” he said. “Getting the correct information out there is absolutely vital to beating this pandemic, to reaching herd immunity, because you have a lot of people that are that on board. They want to do it; they just want that reliable information. And hearing it from the PCP who they trust, who they grew up to trust is going to be absolutely vital.”

The ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine and limited availability of all COVID-19 shots has been a barrier to getting more doses into primary care offices. As production of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine ramps up, Hamed believes allowing family physicians to distribute those doses could help with vaccine hesitancy, ease the burden on local health departments, and speed up distribution across the state.

“We think government is doing an awesome job with vaccinations. We’re on target and we’re going to have to – one we get eligibility opened up for that 16 and over, it’s going to be key to get primary care involved. So, I think the message would be we’re eager. We’re waiting. We’re ready to help out,” said Hamed.

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