Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society on primary care physician vaccine access

Massachusetts Medical Society on primary care physician vaccine access

As physicians representing family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, medicine-pediatrics and all those who provide primary care across the Commonwealth, we appreciate that every strategy deployed to distribute vaccines to the patients of Massachusetts is done so with the explicit intention to protect as many lives as possible as quickly as possible from COVID-19.

We recognize that the Commonwealth is making difficult decisions about where to direct a limited supply of vaccine and, simultaneously, pressing the federal government to increase the supply and delivery of the vaccine. We applaud the decision by the federal government and the Commonwealth to provide vaccines to community health centers, where as many as 1 in 7 Massachusetts residents get their primary care.

But we see a glaring omission in the state’s vaccine deployment plan – allowing patients to get the vaccine from their doctor, the consequence of which risks the success of the long-term goal to get vaccines to all patients equitably and efficiently.

Primary care physicians are the most trusted source of medical care, yet, paradoxically, most patients cannot get their vaccine through their primary care physician’s office. Ultimately, this lack of access could amplify inequities among marginalized groups, including the elderly, disabled and the vaccine hesitant. Lack of vaccines for primary care practices could also create additional hurdles for those without access to the internet – subgroups who would traditionally rely on communication with their primary care physicians for basic healthcare needs, such as immunizations.

When the state’s supply of vaccine expands, we strongly urge the leaders of the Commonwealth to make community-based primary care physicians the centerpiece of vaccine distribution as soon as possible, so that patients who may face barriers of access or who may have reservations about getting vaccinated at a centralized site can have access in a familiar setting with a trusted health care team.

The relationship and trust between patient and doctor have never been more vital. Primary care practitioners are usually the first source of reliable, evidence-based information in proper context for patients. We have helped our patients with their health care, responded to questions, countered misinformation and assuaged fears about COVID-19 and soothed anxieties about the vaccinations. Primary care provides connections to patients and saves lives, in large part because our patients trust us.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have been the first to see patients with symptoms, to arrange COVID-19 tests, to help people stay out of the hospital, and to get patients into the hospital when needed.

Despite all the talk and emphasis on equity during the pandemic, inequities have grown. We must urgently reach out to our patients who need us most, including the elderly, the sick, our patients who work as essential workers and, critically, communities of color who have been disproportionately ravaged by this contagion. Our patients trust us to counsel them about the potential side effects and the safety of this vaccine and to address concerns borne of the proliferation of misinformation.

Primary care is uniquely positioned to vaccinate quickly, safely, and at a low cost. Whether we provide care at our patients’ homes, or in our offices, our practices are their medical homes – a place where they feel safe and at ease.

We look forward to continued engagement with stakeholders on all fronts in our efforts to prioritize equity while maintaining efficiency in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to our patients and to all individuals who reside in the Commonwealth.

David A. Rosman, MD, MBA, President, Massachusetts Medical Society

Elisa I. Choi, MD, FACP, FIDSA, Governor, Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Physicians

Dr. Michele C. Parker, President, Massachusetts Chapter Academy of Family Physician

Dr. Lloyd Fisher, President, Massachusetts Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Russell Phillips, Director, Center for Primary Care, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Wayne Altman, Chair, Department of Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

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