Some Michigan vaccine providers have yet to receive a shipment of the COVID-19 shot several months into the rollout as demand continues to exceed supply.
On Monday, The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, which represents over 4,200 members, had a press conference urging the state to starting allocating doses to family physicians.
"I feel there is a subset of patients who rely on their family physician— I've known some patients for 30 years and they truly rely on our advice and it's about trust," said Dr. Pamela Blackwell, medical director of Family Medicine at Domino’s Farms.
Over the last three months, a total of about 15,000 doses have been allocated to vaccine providers categorized as family practice, internal medicine and specialty clinics, a spokesperson for the state health department said.
Statewide over 4 million doses have administered to registered providers. In Michigan, there are more than 2,800 providers signed up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but not all are receiving it.
"As we receive more and more vaccine, which we have been promised in the coming weeks, we will be expanding vaccination opportunities across the state. Primary care and family physicians are an important part of that plan," said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The state's COVID-19 vaccination effort started with healthcare workers and long term care facilities. Most doses went to health systems early in the rollout and have since shifted to also go toward local health departments and some federally qualified health centers.
Mass vaccination clinics have been the focus in many counties. In addition, smaller community-based clinics have also played a role in making the vaccine more accessible.
And some health systems like Metro Health and Mercy Health Saint Mary's say they have been able to offer the vaccine to patients in physician offices.
But, Dr. Blackwell says especially with the arrival of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, more family physicians should be added to the shipment list to cater to patients who wouldn't otherwise get the vaccine.
"Once we have enough vaccine, this is a non issue. The whole issue will be education, and letting people know how safe it is and how important it is to get the vaccine, but until we get there, I think having primary care offices have the ability to vaccinate will make it happen quicker," said Blackwell, who is also an associate professor. Family Medicine at University of Michigan Medical School.
Dr. Mark Hamed, the president of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, and also a medical director with McKenzie Health System said it's especially important ahead of April 5, when the state will open up vaccine eligibility to everyone ages 16 and older. Hamed also serves as the medical director for health departments in eight 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," he said.
The state's goal is to vaccinate 70% of the population ages 16 years old and older as soon as possible. As of Monday, 16.2% of that population is fully vaccinated.
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