Survey shows primary care is willing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines widely and equitably

February 24, 2021
David Hutton

According to a survey by the Larry A. Green Center, in collaboration with the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) and 3rd Conversation, primary care offers assets, including experience and relationships with patients.

The Larry A. Green Center, in collaboration with the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) and 3rd Conversation, has released new data showing that primary care is willing to help meet the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine goals through outreach, education, advocacy and administration of the vaccine.

The survey found that primary care is not yet being leveraged for these purposes, despite the rapid ramping up of the vaccines’ distribution.

According to the survey of more than 900 primary care clinicians fielded in mid-February, 89% of clinicians want their practices to be a vaccination site, but only 22% are considered one by their health department, local hospital or health system.

Targeting groups that are most vulnerable and in need of the vaccine is a key strategy for addressing vaccine equity, and the survey shows that primary care can assist with this.

More than 60% of clinicians surveyed have created eligibility groups and carried out proactive outreach to educate their patients.

“Primary care is the largest platform in our country’s healthcare system,” Rebecca Etz, PhD, co-director of The Larry A. Green Center, said in a statement. “It has the experience and expertise in administering vaccines as well as established relationships with communities and patients. These are all things we need right now. Americans are desperate to get vaccinated, and primary care is willing, so what are we waiting for?”

Moreover the study also revealed the assets that primary care can offer to the systems being developed for the vaccines’ administration, starting with an understanding of the needs.

Forty percent of clinicians said they have already invested significant time trying to find a vaccine for their most vulnerable patients.

A majority (88%) note that communities with high COVID-19 positivity rates are not being prioritized, and most (63%) believe scheduling a vaccine appointment takes a high degree of knowledge of technology and health, according to the survey.

“We need to be running on all cylinders in this vaccination effort and coordinating across sectors,” Ann Greiner, President and CEO of PCC, said in a statement. “We are calling upon the federal government and states to incorporate primary care into vaccine education and administration strategies. Primary care has a relationship with the vast majority of Americans and can prioritize people who are in greatest need to further vaccine equity.”

Since March 2020, the Larry A. Green Center has collected data from primary care clinicians on their abilities and attitudes in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest in the series of regular surveys shows that 73% of clinicians report that their relationships with patients have been key to addressing vaccine hesitancy, another hurdle in achieving herd immunity from the coronavirus.

“There are an awful lot of people and their families searching everywhere for vaccines right now, and wouldn’t it be easier if primary care clinicians were equipped to handle these requests?” Christine Bechtel, cofounder of 3rd Conversation, a community of patients and clinicians, said in a statement. “The hard truth is that there are also a lot of people hesitant about getting vaccinated, and this data shows that primary care professionals can help move those in ‘wait and see’ mode to ‘can’t wait to be protected’ mode.”

The survey of clinicians was fielded Feb. 12-16, 2021, and received 910 responses from clinicians in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Guam.

Results were as follow: 70% of respondents identified their practice as family medicine, 14% as internal medicine, 6% as pediatrics, 5% as geriatrics, and 6% as other. 69% identified as MDs, 6% as DOs, 16% as NPs, and 9% other. 9% work in community health clinics or similar and 24% in rural settings. 29% work in a practice with 1-3 clinicians and 41% had more than 10 clinicians. 29% work in a practice that is self-owned, 39% are system-owned, 6% are government-owned, and 4% are membership-based.