You could soon be receiving a phone call from your family doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine as hundreds of family physicians get ready to administer the shots.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians has confirmed 300 family medical practices across the province are being onboarded to put more shots in arms in hot spot areas.
Through a pilot project last month, some family doctors in six public health units, including Toronto and Peel Region, began administering the AstraZeneca shot.
Before and during the pilot project, family doctors across the province had been calling to be more involved in the vaccine rollout.
Update on family docs giving the vaccine: There are more than 300 family medicine practices across the province currently being onboarded for the current allocation of vaccines, with attention to areas of high need, says @davidkaplanmd— OCFP (@OntarioCollege) April 9, 2021
OCFP President Dr. Liz Muggah says a couple of weeks ago, after the province saw its second allotment of AstraZeneca vaccines, public health units reached out to see who would be willing to vaccinate in their offices.
Dr. Muggah says while public health units have done a tremendous job with the mass vaccination clinics and pop ups, family doctors can add to that work.
“There are patients who won’t want to go to one of those mass vaccine clinics,” Dr. Muggah says, “maybe they’re elderly and they’ve been very careful so far about not exposing themselves, and so being able to go to their family doctor’s office where it’s a place, an environment that they know, a place where they feel safe, is really important.”
Family doctors administering vaccines is also an opportunity for patients to ask more questions about vaccines if they’re hesitant, Dr. Muggah says.
“Those patients who, you know we think about 30 per cent, are still hesitant in the Ontario population. So, the chance for them to come and see us and ask those questions and have answers given to them by somebody who they trust, who knows what their personal history is, what their medical history is, allows them to then feel like ‘okay, now I’m ready and lets get that vaccine now.'”
Dr. Muggah is hoping to see more family doctors get on board to administer shots, and also wants to see them have access to the Moderna vaccine as well.
“We’re also calling to be able to use the Moderna vaccine, that’s another vaccine that can be, for a period of time, also kept in a regular fridge. So I think we would hope, as we see these 300 practices onboarded, that that continues to grow and we see more practices brought on and also some more options so that we can be not just vaccinating with AstraZeneca, but also there’s Moderna we can be vaccinating with that,” she says.
Dr. Muggah says family doctors have a unique role to play in the vaccine rollout because they have trusted relationships with their patients.
“That really makes a difference with the vaccine because that means we can have conversations to help new patients from feeling hesitant towards feeling confident about the vaccine, we can reach out to patients who may be unwilling or unable to go to other options for a vaccine, we can even do visits to people’s homes to make sure that homebound are also getting vaccinated,” Dr. Muggah says.
Dr. Muggah says the vaccine rollout will look different region to region, and to reach out to your public health unit to learn how it will roll out locally.