Delivering COVID-19 vaccines in family practices is key to reaching hesitant patients: Calgary doctor

Another 60 physician clinics will soon begin vaccinating patients in Alberta.

As a high school teacher, Heidi White figured her chances of getting COVID-19 were fairly high. On April 4, she tested positive along with other members of her household.

“Working at a high school, I figured eventually I would be exposed. We were very fortunate. We don’t have any long-haul symptoms,” said White.

Read more: Alberta pilot will see 10 doctors’ offices administer COVID-19 vaccines

Now she considers herself lucky because she was vaccinated by her family physician Dr. Christine Luelo in her clinic on Saturday.

“I feel really fortunate and grateful and the prospect of schools opening with no masks next year or my kids being able to go to summer camp and do sports next year is really exciting,” White said.

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Saturday marks the first day Luelo can give COVID-19 vaccinations.

In April, 10 physician clinics in Alberta took part in a pilot project where each delivered 100 vaccine doses.

The clinic in Calgary’s McKenzie Towne is part of 60 additional clinics throughout the province that are joining the rollout.

“There are patients who are a bit hesitant, and if we can have a great conversation with them during their visit and we have a vaccine in the fridge, we can follow up with that conversation and get them to a yes,” Leulo said.

“Get that vaccine in their arm so that there isn’t a waiting period afterwards where they might change their mind.”

Clinic staff have been contacting patients who haven’t been vaccinated. It’s a time-consuming process, but one thing family doctors have going for them is the trust that comes with having those relationships with patients.

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“Knowing we can use that trust for good, and we can use that to help them feel really comfortable about doing what we know is safe and effective is the right thing to do to end this pandemic, so it’s just another reminder to me of how powerful family practice is,” Leulo said.

Luelo said getting vaccines into the arms of the eager population was the easy part. She said getting the more hesitant population is going to be trickier and the best place to do it is at the family doctor’s office.

Read more: More Alberta doctors to start offering COVID-19 vaccines in clinics

“If we are ever going to get to that 80 per cent that we know is going to be what we need to be safe in our communities, we are really going to need to get those 10 to 20 per cent of patients who are hesitant injections, and this is the place to do it: in their family practices,” Leulo said.

Participating clinics will offer the Moderna vaccine at this time, with about 8,200 doses expected to be administered by family physicians.

Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine program will look to expand the number of participating clinics as the vaccine supply increases. It’s expected the number of participating clinics will rise to 100 within weeks.


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