Yesterday, I was surprised when a patent told me she was scheduled for the coronavirus vaccine. She is a healthy 58-year-old lawyer who has been working 100% remotely, but because she works for the New York State court system, she was chosen to be vaccinated.
Next patient told me his wife works at a hospital and got vaccinated there. “Oh, is she a nurse?” I naively asked. “No. She is the office manager in the billing department.”
This morning, I stopped at the deli to get coffee and the young owner told me he was scheduled for the shot. His wife had spent hours on the computer scheduling the entire family.
Meanwhile, I can’t get vaccines to give my patients. The State has absolute control over vaccine distribution and has set up a number of favored groups who will get preference. Despite their lip service to equitable distribution, New York’s process favors those with connections to the State or those with good computer skills who have the time to spend hours entering data, clicking and refreshing. The quest for government-enforced vaccine equity has led to inequity.
It would be much simpler and more patient-friendly to send the vaccines to primary care offices. It is easy for us to query our patient rosters and place telephone calls to the patients who are at most risk of COVID. I figure I could vaccinate 200 patients in a week without breaking a sweat. Since there are 200,000 practicing primary care physicians in the USA, we have the capacity to vaccinate 40 million people in a week just using primary care offices.
I’m not sure why primary care physicians have the lowest priority to get vaccine shipments. But, one thing I can tell you is New York State doesn’t trust us. I routinely receive threatening letters from the Department of Health warning me not to deviate from the State’s directives, and I haven’t even gotten any vaccine yet. It wasn’t enough to sign one Memorandum of Understanding, they had to quickly send an addendum just so they would have my written acknowledgment of their threat of “civil penalties, including but not limited to suspension or revocation of licensure or operating certificate, and may include also referral to any appropriate law enforcement entity.
I can see why other independent primary care physicians have decided not to bother giving vaccinations. When you are threatened with a million-dollar fine for vaccinating the wrong person and a hundred thousand dollar fine for not vaccinating people quickly enough, maybe the prudent thing is to not bother.