Family physicians can qualify in the 1a category for the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan if you are considered high risk for exposure to COVID-19. High risk of exposure is defined as routinely evaluating, caring for or testing patients with COVID-19. If you meet this criteria, you should reach out to your local health system or local health deaprtment. The key is that you are routinely evaluating, caring for, or testing patients with COVID-19.
The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians is taking strong steps to advocate for our state's family physicians in two arenas relevant to the COVID-19 vaccine.
First, we are urging the state to ensure that our crucial frontline family physicians receive the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. Every day, family physicians are treating COVID-19 patients in their office, many times without knowing the person has the illness when the care is delivered. Each week we receive calls where our members have treated a patient for diabetes, hypertension, etc., only to learn later that the person was pre-symptomatic but likely COVID-19 positive at the time of treatment. A University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine Study found that among healthcare workers, those who work in primary care rather than the in- patient setting may have faced the highest risk of dying from COVID-19. While this was an early study examining 1,004 reported cases of COVID-19 deaths among healthcare workers globally as of mid-May, family physicians appeared to be affected much more often than physicians in inpatient settings. We believe it is imperative that family physicians be considered a high priority population for COVID-19 immunization as soon as possible.
Second, family physicians are also ready to vaccinate their own patients and want to do so as quickly as possible. Primary care practices are well versed in mass vaccination clinics. Most importantly, family physicians are best equipped to deal with vaccine hesitancy, particularly in historically marginalized populations, due to the long-term trusting relationship they have with their patients. Family physicians are also well versed at “recalling” patients for needed care, a crucial function in immunizing our state's residents given that patients will need two immunizations for COVID-19.
A copy of our recent letter to the NC State Health Director is included below.