B.C.'s family doctors likely shut out of vaccine administration for kids

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is hopeful Health Canada will approve COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 by early November.

But B.C. parents hoping to bring their child to the family doctor to get their shots will be out of luck.

“We will be taking a number of different approaches. It probably will not be in physicians offices yet,” said Henry at her weekly briefing.

Henry says there are still questions about how long mRNA vaccines can remain viable in the refrigerators at doctors' offices, and family physicians aren’t able to access the province’s vaccination database to update which of their young patients have gotten their shots.

“It was a bit of a blow. It was a bit of a disappointment to hear,” said Vancouver family physician Dr. Anna Wolak. “Family doctors, we have been wanting to be helpful in this, and we have been doing what we can, and we know this is our laneway. “

Wolak says family doctors are adept at vaccinating young children, who are often anxious about needles.

“Even if we are behind a mask, they still know it’s us. So at least that layer of trust is there, where as if they go to a mass clinic or even if they go to their schools, if they don’t know who the person is, that adds an extra fear,” said Wolak.

While she understands there are hurdles to overcome to get vaccine to doctors offices, Wolak believes there are big benefits if the province can solve those problems, rather than exclude family doctors from the vaccine roll out for children.

“At the same time as addressing the kids anxiety, we can address the parental anxiety as well if the parents have questions,” she said.

When it’s approved, children will likely be offered vaccines in mass clinics, at schools and at some pharmacies.

“We are trying to do a broad-based approach across the province to make sure access is there for everybody when the vaccine is available,” said Henry.

London Drugs head of pharmacy Chris Chiew says his stores are on board.

“We are able to inject anybody five years or older. We have done that with flu vaccines, we have experience with various other vaccinations as well. So we are definitely standing ready to inject with that right away,” said Chiew, adding his pharmacies have ultra low cold freezers and enough staff to start right away.

For now at least, family doctors who want to vaccinate kids will have to do it at mass clinics outside their offices. But Wolak’s hopeful that will change.

“I’m still hoping somewhere in the background without telling us that it’s happening that things are happening. That they’re trying to address this to make it work for the family doctors,” Wolak said, adding “I’m a cock eyed optimist, what can I say? 18 months of the pandemic still hasn’t worn me down.”