By Robert L. Moore, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer
“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.”
-Adam Hochschild (Writer, historian)
The approval of COVID boosters this week, and the expected expansion of vaccination to school aged children in the next 2 months, will lead to a surge in demand for vaccination. Counties, pharmacies, hospitals, and medical providers are planning on how to respond to this demand, which could distract us from something all public health experts agree on: most hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated deserve continued focus and attention.
Additionally, the energy and resources to provide boosters and pediatric vaccinations this fall will distract from other important healthcare needs of the populations we serve: increased levels of depression, substance use and obesity are combined with worsening control of hypertension and diabetes. Children are falling behind on well-child visits and routine childhood vaccinations.
What should be the role of Primary Care Providers (PCPs) in providing boosters and pediatric vaccines, during the fall of 2021? Planning with county stakeholders is key, with each stakeholder asking themselves, “What are YOU best equipped to do, what is MY responsibility, what do we need to do TOGETHER to be successful? What is yours, what is mine, what is ours?”
Yours. Consider directing motivated patients to register for vaccinations at community pharmacies, which are currently providing about 2/3 of vaccinations in the state.
Mine. How can we integrate COVID vaccination in our practices as efficiently as possible to avoid negatively impacting other preventive activities, including efforts to vaccinate those without prior doses of vaccine? Can we vaccinate our patients during regular hours and use the leftover doses at the end of the day to provide non-urgent boosters to those previously vaccinated?
Ours. Work with counties to develop a plan to vaccinate school-aged children rapidly, ideally in the school setting. How can we mobilize volunteers to take the pressure off practicing clinicians?
The work remains hard. The new vaccine policy distractions are plentiful. Although the fall Delta wave is subsiding, time is short before a winter wave begins. Nonetheless, it is worth the time to plan now.