For weeks now I’ve been calling for the province to get the COVID-19 vaccines into the hands of family physicians. Who better to triage their patients and get the vaccine into the arms of those who need it most? Who better, also, to deal with vaccine hesitancy than the family physician?
Up until now, the province has depended on a ground up approach, leaving it up to individuals to make their own appointments, starting with the over 80 crowd. It was quickly reduced to over 75 after just one week and then over 70 a week later still. One could be forgiven to think that the changes in the eligibility was a result of a successful vaccination campaign, but the actual reason was more dubious.
It turns out that thousands of seniors were either not getting the message, or they gave up trying to navigate the provincial booking system. So rather than risk wasting the vaccines, the province lowered the age of eligibility.
In the meantime, people in high risk groups with underlying health conditions weren’t able to get vaccinated at all.
The program also ignored people in those age groups who are risk-adverse and didn’t bother to book an appointment at all – which brings me back to the family physicians.
If you did have some hesitancy about getting the vaccine, would you rather get advice from your family doctor, or from someone reading off a script getting paid $16.50 an hour? I thought so.
When I posed the question about why family doctors haven’t been included in the first phase of the vaccine rollout on Facebook, the responses range from “they don’t want to do it” to the issue of keeping the vaccines at an extremely low temperature. When I tried to point out that neither the Ruddy Family YMCA, or the R.J. Kennedy Community Centre, or the Navan Memorial Arena, or the François Dupuis Recreation Centre – all of which have been providing vaccinations in the east end – were equipped with special freezers, I was met with the deafening sound of crickets.
It wasn’t until I talked to a retired family physician, who had a 30-year practice in Orléans, that I found out the real reason – money.
As it turns out, it costs a lot more to have the doctors administer the vaccines than it does to have a public health nurse, or a pharmacist do it. However true that may be, it shouldn’t matter. Fortunately, the province recently announced that family physicians will be included in phase two of the rollout. Unfortunately, their dilly-dallying has resulted in hundreds of people getting sick and ending up in hospital than should have otherwise been the case.