B.C.'s family doctors want COVID-19 vaccine doses to offer in-person patients

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Now that she’s seeing patients in person again at her family practice in Vancouver, Dr. Anna Wolak always asks them if they’re vaccinated. If the patient says no, she tries to address their hesitancy, and has had success in getting some of them to change their minds.

But she can only tell them where and how to get their shots, she can’t offer them a COVID-19 vaccine on the spot.

“My worry is somewhere along the way, they will see something on social media or talk to a friend, and all the work I had put into the convincing could fall by the wayside,” said Wolak.

She would like family physicians to have vaccine on hand to offer to patients who are finally ready to roll up their sleeves in the exam room, something family doctors can already do with the flu shot.

“We have a patient coming in for something completely different and say, ‘Hey, have you gotten your flu shot?’ And if they haven’t and we have a quick conversation, it’s right there, it’s like meters away,” said Wolak.

Right now, four hospitals in the Vancouver Coastal Health region have vaccine doses in emergency room fridges. This past week, Dr. Nav Grewal jabbed a patient in the ER for the very first time.

“It was great,” said Grewal. “I was able to take someone who had some vaccine hesitancy, answer their questions while they were there for a non-COVID-related issue, and was able to vaccinate them right there and then.”

She’d like to see that same easy access for family doctors.

“We are down to the last five to 10 per cent of people that are going to get vaccinated. This would be the prime time to get these (vaccines) into family physician offices and other primary care offices,” Grewal said.

Wolak said it’s especially important as B.C. prepares to launch a vaccine campaign for children ages five to 11.

“When they’re with the doctor they have known all their lives and they’ve trusted, it would be easier and less painful for them to get it in my office than, say, in the thousand-people convention centre,” said Wolak.

If the province does offer vaccine doses to family doctors offices?

“Sign me up,” she said. “I’m waiting for my flu shot delivery, so we can give the COVID shot at the same time as the flu shot as well. It would be so much easier.”