Doctors’ offices are overflowing with inquiries from patients who hope to get the vaccine, even though most physicians do not have doses to offer. Overwhelmed with all the requests, staff members in some private medical offices are sending out emails and putting up posters in their offices and notes on their websites making it clear that they cannot provide the shot.
But primary care and family medicine is a focal point of preventive care, and it’s where most people usually receive vaccines, said Shawn Martin, the chief executive officer of the American Academy of Family Physicians. So as patients become anxious about where and when they can receive the coronavirus vaccine, they are turning to their physicians, who in most instances simply do not have the shots.
The tension has only increased this week when federal officials indicated that more doses from a stockpile would be sent to states. But they have since clarified that the batch is actually from a tranche saved for second doses.
“The calls are definitely flooding in,” Mr. Martin said. “I think the challenge today has been a lack of consistent prioritization and lack of a consistent distribution strategy.” And that, he said, has made it even more difficult for physicians to field all the inquiries. Directing patients to the best information about where they may get the shots is not always a simple matter.
Some health care services, such as Family HealthCare, a Maryland-based provider, have featured notices on their websites notifying patients that they cannot offer the vaccine. In bright red letters, Family HealthCare’s website reads: “At this point we don’t have details on logistics of vaccine distribution and administration. We are unsure if FHC will eventually have these vaccines to administer at our offices as it is dependent on state and local logistics.”
Dr. Andrew Carroll, a family physician and primary care doctor in Chandler, Ariz., said that his staff has been getting anywhere between 10 to 15 calls an hour inquiring about the vaccine. He said he is disheartened that he cannot actually provide the shot to his patients, particularly since his office bought a freezer equipped to store the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be kept at cold temperatures.
“To be kind of at the back of the line in terms of distribution for what is probably one of the most important vaccination programs of our lifetimes is so frustrating,” he said. “We’re unfortunately having to tell our patients that we are not giving the vaccine.”
Dr. Carroll has been sending out emails informing his patients about the situation, but he is still getting calls — and he understands why. He said that some people who are hesitant about the vaccine might be reassured if their own doctor’s office was the one giving it.
“Many patients are very reluctant to get a vaccine that doesn’t have a proven track record,” he said. “They’d rather get the vaccine from somebody they can call right afterwards if they’re having problems.”