The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) is calling for the increased involvement of Ontario’s family doctors in vaccination efforts. The call comes after a recent survey from the OCFP found one-third of Ontarians remain unsure about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and would be more likely to get vaccinated if it were endorsed and administered by a family doctor.
An overwhelming amount of survey respondents (87%) reported they go to their family doctor first for health advice.
“With the recent government announcement to expand the vaccine rollout, family physicians will continue to step up and support public health in mass vaccination clinics,” said Dr. Liz Muggah, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “However, we know that many options beyond pharmacy and mass vaccination sites will be needed to ensure we reach all Ontarians, including those who are vulnerable, hesitant and homebound. We must use the full potential of family physicians and primary care to ensure an efficient and equitable rollout.”
The OCFP’s findings show giving Ontarians the option to get their vaccines from a family doctor could increase vaccine uptake by as much as 61% among people who are resistant or hesitant to getting the vaccine – with the potential to raise the provincial uptake rate by 20 points to 88%. This could reduce vaccine hesitancy in Ontario from 32% to 12% and result in over 2 million more Ontarians signing up to get the shot.
“Family doctors can help boost vaccine confidence. We know our patients best, and we know how to reach those most vulnerable,” said Dr. Tara Kiran, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “An all-hands-on deck approach must include a central role for family doctors in the province’s vaccination plan. Thousands of family doctors in the province are prepared and ready to get to work vaccinating Ontarians.”
The OCFP is encouraged by the success of the in-clinic vaccination pilot program in six regions in Ontario with the AstraZeneca vaccine, where family doctors are vaccinating while still running their practices and delivering ongoing care. All primary care sites are on track to meet the early April vaccination target provided by the Ministry of Health.
“Family doctors are currently vaccinating in mobile and mass clinics, through primary care pilots, and were instrumental in vaccinating long-term care and retirement home residents with Moderna and Pfizer,” added Dr. Muggah. “Now with vaccine supply increasing, and in the public interest, it is imperative that we have options for all Ontarians to be vaccinated, including with the support of family doctors and their use of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.”