JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out in communities across Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, some doctors feel more could be done to serve more people.
Right now, limited numbers of vaccines are available through health departments and major hospitals, but locally owned family practice clinics have so far been sidelined in the nationwide vaccination effort.
“We need to get these vaccines into the primary care offices,” said Charles Warren, D.O., the medical director for Family Care Partners, an independent chain of doctors’ offices in our area.
Warren wants his colleagues to also be able to give out the shots to the community.
“We’ve made all the preparations, we’re ready to go, but nobody can tell us when we’re going to get it yet,” he said.
There are several public mass vaccination sites now operating. But many people are have expressed their concerns to News4Jax: they are having trouble getting appointments, they don’t want to wait in line and some don’t have reliable transportation to get to the sites.
“I think what is needed is all hands on deck, so I think we should have the ability to massively vaccinate those that can mobilize,” said Dr. Alejandro Perez-Trepichio, M.D., the chief medical officer for Millennium Physician Group, a chain of family physicians with 130 offices throughout Florida.
Perez-Trepichio said he too wants to be able to give out vaccines to patients, and says it should happen soon, noting some offices in Lee and Collier Counties have already vaccinated their staffs. An MPG manager said a clinic in Nassau County could immunize patients in the coming weeks, but that’s not set in stone.
He said there are unique challenges to giving out immunizations outside of large public vaccines sites.
“These are vials that are multi-dose,” Perez-Trepichio said. “So there are at least 10 dosages in every vial. So a challenge we find in a small office is a patient comes one at a time, there is a certain time that a vial must be dispensed.”
Ultra-cold storage also presents an obstacle for MPG: that essentially rules out Pfizer’s doses.
While they don’t know exactly when or how they’ll be empowered to vaccinate patients and staff, Perez-Trepichio says his teams are getting ready. Vaccines are federally funded and given out free of charge to recipients.
News4Jax reached out to the Florida Department of Health for details about when and how local physicians could have access to the vaccines for their patients. This story will be updated with the agency’s response.