South Florida Hospital News
Friday February 26, 2021
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February 2021 - Volume 17 - Issue 8
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The Road to Herd Immunity

There is one road back to a normal, pre-COVID American economy and society. We must vaccinate a large majority of Americans as soon as possible. Thirty million of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been distributed, but as of a couple of weeks ago, only 10 million have made it into our arms. Far fewer have received the mandatory second shot.

How are we as a nation going to vaccinate the next 300 million of our fellow citizens?
 
There have been admirable, even heroic efforts. Our hospitals have labored mightily to do their part, rightfully focusing first on the caregivers. The stadium-style approaches have had limited success, as have the chronically underfunded and underappreciated public health departments. The physical and economic health of our nation depends on our engaging every bit of our communal knowledge and experience into this effort.
 
In the Navy, there is a call to action in times of crisis, when the ship is under attack and in trouble, as we are now. That call is for “All hands on deck”. President Biden announced a $20 billion allocation with a stated goal of administering 100 million vaccines in 100 days, and he’s assembled a top-notch experienced group to achieve it.
 
First, we must acknowledge that vaccine hesitancy exists, from the Black community’s historical memory of medical experimentation and current racial health disparities to the poor folks who have gotten twisted up in the arguments between science and politics. Whom can a patient trust?
 
To defeat these enemies, we need trusted, familiar, accessible, clinically-appropriate brick and mortar locations in every big city and small town staffed with qualified and experienced inoculators. We need to focus on the goal of herd immunity. A massive network already exists to facilitate this goal. It’s our physicians’ offices.
 
Each and every year, Americans visit their doctors’ offices nearly one billion times. Doctors’ offices are in nearly every place in the U.S. and are proportionally distributed based on patient population. It’s not a perfect distribution network, but close enough. The most vulnerable populations, senior citizens and those with co-morbidities, are also the most frequent visitors to doctors’ offices. If you have a doctor, you know how to get there, where to park or be dropped off, and how to make an appointment.
 
As importantly, doctors and nurses are the most trusted members of our society, ranked #1 and 2 according to the 2020 Gallup poll on most trusted professions. Patients trust their doctors, their nurses, and the medical assistants who regularly care for them. Who better to help overcome vaccine reluctance than the family doctor or nurse practitioner in whom you confide or the cardiologist who’s kept you alive for years?
 
The decentralized approach comes with logistical challenges. How do you get vaccines to 230,000 doctors’ offices from sea to shining sea? That solution already exists with skilled and trained clinical and distribution experts, i.e. the 80,000-strong army of pharmaceutical sales representatives who have a professional relationship with the staff, can be deployed nationwide and slightly repurposed to safely distribute the vaccines.
 
To combat the IT challenges every provider has experienced, we can turn to Zocdoc. It’s launched a proprietary nationwide vaccination scheduling system which they’ve pledged to provide for free.
 
We do need all hands on deck, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Let’s deploy our nation’s doctors’ offices to augment the hospitals, the stadiums, the drive-thrus, and the overwhelmed public health departments.

Wayne Brackin, President & Chief Executive Officer, Kidz Medical, can be reached at wayne.brackin@kidzmedical.com. Dr. Tina Carroll-Scott is Medical Director, South Miami Children’s Clinic.

 
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