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By Ewa Matuszewski

I hope as you are reading this that Michigan primary care physicians are vaccinating their patients against COVID-19. However, as I write this, the primary care community has been shut out of offering solution-oriented strategies for maximizing vaccinations among Michigan residents. Note, I do not include publicly traded primary care companies here, which was tapped early on by large health systems for vaccination administration assistance. If you sense irritation on my part, you are correct.  

For those vaccines that do not require polar temperature refrigeration, the physician’s office should not have been overlooked.  Not only are primary care physicians experienced in vaccination storage, monitoring and distribution, they know their patient population and can easily identify their most vulnerable patients for vaccinations by using their electronic patient registry platforms. Further, they can immediately log in each vaccination through the state’s MCIR data base.

Michigan is supported by an outstanding network of primary care physicians and Advanced Practice Providers (APP) who lead the nation in following the patient-centered medical home model. Our PO member physicians and APP were trained by the state (MCIR training) through internally developed webinars and other communication channels earlier this year on how to prepare for large scale vaccination initiatives. Not one physician or APP has told me they have no interest in being part of a vaccination effort. Beyond our own member practices, I firmly believe the majority of primary care practices in Michigan are ready, willing, and able to to join the fight to defeat the pandemic with these highly effective vaccines. Perhaps it is (once again) time to raise the collective voice of the PCP community to get noticed. Are you in?

There is another topic on my mind, too, but of course it is ultimately related to the pandemic and the vaccine. I am an unabashed foodie, taught to cook with minimal but tasty and healthy provisions at the apron strings of my Polish-immigrant mother. My two daughters were also lovingly taught to cook by their grandmother, and one has gone on to a culinary career, although it is more about running restaurants and pop-ups and creating menus than it is cooking the food. Still, her life in the restaurant business has kept me closely attuned to the industry.

The economic devastation of restaurants and the hospitality field overall is well documented, but I do wonder why there has been no substantive consideration given in Michigan to vaccinate restaurant workers in order to begin rebuilding the financial viability of their employers as well as their own economic well-being.  

While there is some level of calculated risk of getting COVID-19 from a server, the reality is with current mitigation strategies, the time spent between server and restaurant patrons is minimal. The greater risk lies among restaurant workers in close quarters for hours at a time and should be addressed immediately.

While they say wishing doesn’t make it so, I just took a break from writing this to read that  Detroit has announced it has extended vaccine eligibility to food service workers, including those working in restaurants. Hmmm…perhaps this bodes well for my campaign to enlist PCPs in the vaccination battle. Next in line?