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The Role of Family Physicians’ in the COVID Vaccine Rollout

The recent ACFP survey of its members regarding the willingness and capacity of primary care to support the vaccine rollout garnered over 1,200 members’ responses. Based on your feedback, the ACFP will be advocating for the integral role of family physicians as partners in the pandemic response. The following letter will be sent to our government, partners, and advocates in Alberta.

Dear Partners and Advocates,

The approval of vaccinations for COVID-19 is a turning point in the management of the pandemic. It gives us all – frontline health care workers, policy makers, and the community as a whole – hope that the pandemic and its impact on all of our lives – will soon come to an end.

For that to happen, we all must work together to ensure success. Unity in messaging and implementation will be critical to a successful vaccination campaign. Clear communication of roles and responsibilities are necessary. 

Family physicians are on the frontlines of our health care system. They are often the first point of contact for a patient seeking care. The trusting relationships between family physicians and patients as well as the infrastructure of clinical operations throughout the province can be an important contributor to the vaccination campaign.

We all recognize the challenges currently facing us on the vaccine rollout – limited supplies of vaccine, specific storage requirements, and high priority groups requiring early access to the vaccine. However, we must also be ready for an evolution in availability of vaccine doses, potential candidate vaccines with less stringent storage requirements, and the need to vaccinate an entire population in a time sensitive manner.

The strategic conversations and development of protocols to enable success need to be initiated now – proactively, so that the system is ready to respond once the circumstances enable us to.

Family physicians can be a crucial player to a successful vaccination campaign. A survey of our membership reveals that, 85% of family physicians in the province want to be engaged in the vaccination campaign. This can involve many roles:

  • Optimizing our long-standing connections with patients enables us to be a key source of communication and information dissemination to our patients – we need to be engaged early and throughout the process with respect to vaccination information as well as roll out plans and process.
  • Leveraging our knowledge of patients to apply risk stratification and recognize indications and contraindications to vaccination – this will be key to efficient identification of those eligible for vaccination throughout the phases of rollout.
  • Lending our clinical infrastructure, including facilities and health teams, in every corner of the province enables us to be a source of vaccine administration – especially true for vaccine candidates with less stringent storage requirements than the initial mRNA vaccine (Pfizer BioNTech).
  • Participating in community-based vaccination campaigns – be it through local PCN infrastructure or AHS facilities.

On an annual basis, family physicians have been involved in another important public health intervention – the universal influenza vaccination campaign. There is pre-existing knowledge of vaccine storage, administration, and the importance of advocating and educating regarding public health measures. The system needs to leverage this to facilitate a successful COVID-19 campaign as well.

As has been said many times during this pandemic, “we’re all in this together”, this not only applies to navigating through the pandemic, but in trying to end it as well.

Sincerely, in your service,

Vishal Bhella MD, CCFP
Alberta College of Family Physicians

One response to “The Role of Family Physicians’ in the COVID Vaccine Rollout”

  1. In my opinion engaging in vaccine rollout and participating in vaccination campaign is our professional responsibility. However despite being at risk as we are in close contact with patients, symptomatic and asymptomatic, not being in priority groups to receive the vaccine is disappointing.

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