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Why have family doctors been overlooked in vaccine rollout?

By Dr. Tara Kiran

THE TORONTO STAR

Last fall the same scenes played out in hundreds of communities across Ontario.

People walking through the front door of a clinic and being ushered into an exam room. Others sitting in cars lined up in the parking lot of a community building, extending their arms out the window. A few confined to their home, answering their doorbell and smiling to greet a trusted face.

Each scene ends in the same way — with a person receiving their flu shot from their family doctor.

Family doctors and our teams administered more than half the flu shots in Ontario this season. Every day, we vaccinate people across the life cycle, from infancy to older adulthood. Vaccination is a core part of our job and we’re good at it.

Yet, family doctors in Ontario have been given no clear role in the most important vaccine rollout of our lifetime.

Just this week the province announced it signed a deal with pharmacists to have them deliver COVID-19 vaccines in the 4,600 pharmacies dispersed throughout the province. Pharmacists will leverage their experience with flu shots and estimate delivering 46 vaccines per pharmacy per day at its peak.

Much of this is good news. Pharmacies are an important part of Ontario’s vaccine distribution system and it makes sense the government is using them. But once again there was no mention of the role Ontario’s family doctors will take.

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