Primary care physicians in Massachusetts say they feel squeezed out of the state’s vaccine rollout plan, and they are trying to change that.
They say getting the shot at your doctor’s office would not only be convenient, it would also help vaccinate some of the state's most vulnerable residents.
Tuesday, the phone would not stop ringing at Dr. Chris Garofalo’s family practice in North Attleboro, as patients kept calling, wondering when they will be able to get the vaccine at their PCP's office.
“We kept telling people we were going to be able to get them in and then we got cut off,” Dr. Garofalo said.
With limited supply, the state is directing doses away from hospitals and doctors like him in order to get more doses to mass vaccination sites.
“We’re very disappointed in that,” Dr. Garofalo said.
He said he is disappointed because he and other family doctors feel their patients are more comfortable getting the shot from someone they know at a place they know.
“Those patients who don’t want it, we are convincing them. To tell them they have to go somewhere else to get it just doesn’t make any sense,” Dr. Garofalo said.
Dr. Katherine Atkinson, who practices family medicine in Amherst, agrees. She just canceled the special freezer she ordered to hold the Pfizer vaccine because they are getting few, if any doses, and she has yet to hear a concrete plan from the state.
“I really think doctors' offices is where they should be doing vaccines. We know our patients better than anybody,” Dr. Atkinson said.
It would be better for Jeanne Duphiney of Plainville. She has yet to get the vaccine even though she is eligible at 88 years old.
“I don’t do computers at all. I don’t even want to try,” Duphiney said.
Kit Cullinan of North Attleboro made the trek to Gillette and got the vaccine, but was overwhelmed by the crowd. She said she would have preferred to get it from her primary care physician.
“Gillette was so crowded it felt like a super-spreader event. My doctor’s office would have been closer, would have had a smaller group and probably would have gone much faster,” Cullinan said.
Dr. Garofalo said he was part of a group that helped the state come up with a plan where hospitals would serve as depots so they would not have to ship doses to every practice individually. However, a few weeks later they found out they were being cut off from the supply chain.
“We’re not asking to do thousands of doses. We want 100. Give us 100 a week. Let us get those doses and let us get those into those patients,” he said.