Michigan family physicians urge state to include physicians in COVID-19 vaccine administration

LANSING — Michigan’s family physicians recently urged the state to include primary care physicians in the vaccination process before public vaccine eligibility begins on April 5.

The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians—representing more than 4,200 family physicians family medicine residents, and medical students across the state, stressed that as vaccine supply increases, including primary care physicians more directly in vaccination efforts will help alleviate the burden that is currently placed on local public health departments and healthcare systems.

“It’s been a long year for everyone as we have navigated this public health crisis,” said Mark Hamed, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAFP, President, Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Medical Director of the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Hospital Medicine at McKenzie Health System, and Medical Director of health departments in eight Thumb and Northeast Michigan counties. “We have made great progress but have a long way to go, and that is why we believe it is time to bring Michigan’s primary care physicians into vaccination administration efforts. As we near time for the general public to be eligible for vaccines, demand will be high, and we are ready to step up and help.”

Primary care doctors traditionally administer around half of all non-COVID adult vaccinations, protecting patients against pneumonia, measles, polio, influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Boosting capacity by including family physicians in COVID-19 vaccine allocation, when supply is available, will help the state reach its goal of vaccinating 70% of the population sooner. Including primary care physicians in vaccine efforts also will help the state move toward achieving herd immunity – when enough are immune to the disease to make its spread unlikely – more quickly.

“As we are entering a new phase of this pandemic, Michigan family physicians want to do our part to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients,” said Dr. Pamela Rockwell, DO, FAAFP, Medical Director of Family Medicine at Domino’s Farms and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at University of Michigan Medical School. “We want to be an ally to help get more shots in arms so that we can put an end to this pandemic. Until we reach that point, it’s critical that everyone continue to wear masks and social distance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.”

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that eight out of ten people are likely to rely on the advice of their primary care physician before deciding whether to get immunized. Family physicians play a critical role in countering vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, building local community trust and serving as a source of science-based information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

This week, during Family Medicine Week, as proclaimed by Governor Whitmer, MAFP is also reminding Michiganders to make sure they are staying up to date on other vaccines that are essential to keeping adults and children healthy. In Michigan, more than 200,000 fewer doses of non-influenza vaccines administered in 2020 and less than 50 percent of children under two are up to date on their vaccinations. — G.G.