For residents worried about getting their COVID-19 vaccines, or unable get to a local mass vaccination clinic, family physicians could be the next step in making sure everyone gets their jab, an Ingersoll doctor says just days after giving the shots for the first time in his own practice.
Dr. Jay Taylor, a family doctor in Ingersoll, said he believes he was the first family practice in Oxford County – and one of very few in the province – now administering COVID-19 vaccines to patients, and says this model could be key to getting vaccine-hesitant people their shots.
“We’ve had a lot of hesitancy and uncertainty from people. There’s lots of evidence that says people getting vaccinated with their family doctor in a comfortable environment is beneficial,” Taylor said.
On Thursday, Taylor said his practice administered one vial of the Moderna vaccine – 10 doses – over about three hours. For comparison, during a normal flu shot clinic they average about 100 doses or more per hour.
“It’s a fair bit slower, but we’re getting faster and faster,” he said.
The big upside to patients receiving their shots from their family doctor is reaching people who can’t – or don’t – want to visit a mass vaccination site. Taylor said he saw some of both kinds of patients Thursday.
“Some were patients who wanted to have a chat about it and … who want our ‘blessing’ before doing it,” Taylor said. “And there were some I knew had a hard time with the system, and we booked with a phone call. … For all intents and purposes, the vaccine came to them.”
There are still plenty of logistical challenges to getting the vaccine in arms in a doctor’s office, Taylor said, including provincial computer software, as well as storage and time requirements for use of the vaccine. Doctors have just six hours to administer every shot once the vial is opened.
But despite the challenges, Taylor said he’s encouraging more family doctors to sign on to these programs when available.
“It’s starting to take off with local family doctors. It’s a whole learning curve,” Taylor said.
“That’s one of the reasons we want to tell people – (it’s) to drum up support with doctors. It is something they can take on in small numbers. We’re not vaccinating the whole county, but it will eventually make a difference.”
Southwestern public health officials said Tuesday they are working closely with family doctors to have their patients receive the vaccine, both at local vaccination sites and eventually in primary-care settings such as doctors offices. More information, officials said, will soon be provided to the community.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians, though, is urging the provincial government and family doctors to support the vaccine rollout and address hesitancy with patients.
“Addressing vaccine hesitancy with patients – our data shows we are best able to move the needle and build vaccine confidence. We can do this with our patients at every encounter and be proactive about ensuring they get vaccinated,” the college said in an open letter on April 1.
Taylor said, for now, they will administer a very limited number of shots – maybe a couple dozen a week, and only to patients of his practice as they navigate the logistical issues and train staff on the particulars of administering the vaccine.
But so far, he said, patients and staff alike have been grateful for the opportunity, and he hopes people will even be happy to get the shot in future.
“There’s an amount of trust patients have with us and they’re much more comfortable. (These are) new vaccines to a lot of people, and it’s reassuring to have the needle in your doctor’s office rather than with a stranger in a place you’ve never been,” Taylor said.
“(The vaccines) really are safe. If anyone is sitting on the fence, it’s worth a chat with their doctor about it.”