Primary care will play crucial role in getting vaccination efforts across the finish line


As a country, we have made outstanding progress on the national vaccination effort. The U.S. has crossed over 330 million shots.

More than two-thirds of adult Americans have at least one shot, and 58% are fully vaccinated. The strides we have made are a testament to the hard work and collaboration across the public, private and healthcare sectors.

Our progress should not, however, blind us to the fact that the job is not nearly finished. Millions of people are unvaccinated and still at risk, especially as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads across the U.S. It is as important as ever for people to get the protection of a COVID-19 vaccine.

We face a different dynamic, however, than we had in months past. The overwhelming majority of people most eager to get vaccinated already have a shot. We still have much more to do in reaching those who remain on the fence, which could be as high as 10% of the population.

To help instill in this group the confidence to get vaccinated, primary-care providers and health systems are key. PCPs are the most trusted source of vaccine information, and their offices are the most preferred location for vaccinations. Survey data confirm this time and again. People want vaccine advice, and the shot itself, from the person who has reliably provided them care, year after year.

The Biden administration has led a number of efforts to further activate primary-care providers and health systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created toolkits to help PCPs implement vaccination programs in their offices and to support them with outreach to their patients about the vaccine. The agency has also been providing technical assistance to states to help them enroll and send more doses to doctor’s offices and clinics.

From the White House, we’ve been working closely with some of the country’s largest provider associations, like the American Medical Association, the American Association of Family Physicians, the American Association of Pediatrics, and many others to encourage their members to redouble their vaccine education and administration efforts. And in May, we hosted a National Provider Town Hall with Drs. Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, Vivek Murthy and Marcella Nunez-Smith as well as providers and health systems from across the country to share best practices.

We’ve seen significant progress, including a near doubling in the number of medical practices receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the last several months. The American Medical Group Association, which represents physician groups and health systems that provide care for a combined one-third of the country’s population, asked its members to commit to proactively reach out to their unvaccinated patients to encourage them to get vaccinated. Within a week of sending their request, 162 of AMGA’s medical group members, representing 103,000 physicians who care for 64 million patients, signed on to act.

Likewise, the Alliance of Community Health Plans, which represents the nation’s top-performing not-for-profit health plans, sent out a call to action to its member plans that serve a combined 24 million people in 36 states and in Washington, D.C. Their members committed to a similar set of efforts including reaching out to their unvaccinated clients through robocalls, emails and texts about getting a shot. AMGA and ACHP members also pledged to take on a number of other strategies to improve vaccine confidence and uptake, such as partnering with community organizations, serving as public vaccine ambassadors on traditional and social media, supporting innovative vaccine delivery to those unable to travel, and redoubling efforts to get healthcare colleagues vaccinated.

Hospitals are playing a key role as well, and are widely adopting best practices, including offering vaccinations upon discharge and at emergency departments, and distributing shots to hospital-affiliated PCPs. We’ve been working closely with the American Hospital Association to further spread these strategies.

We all have a role to play in this next phase. I strongly encourage all primary-care providers and health system leaders to think through what more they can do to educate their patients about the vaccine and help administer the vaccine in an accessible and equitable way. There are myriad examples out there of providers successfully executing innovative and challenging initiatives.

The country has relied on you all over course of the pandemic, and owes you a debt of gratitude for your service to your patients and communities. For what you have done, and what you will continue to do, you have my profound and lasting thanks.


Source: modernhealthcare.com

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