After watching Florida become one of the nation's COVID hotspots, the moment we've all been waiting for is finally here. The State agencies have begun to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines to the population by risk level. First up were frontline healthcare workers. Now we have moved on to another high-risk population, those 65 and older. The problem is that while seniors may be most in need of the vaccine, they are also the most difficult to reach due to accessibility.
While the current distribution of the vaccines via hospitals and government locations works well for community immunization, it unintentionally ostracizes those who are 65 and older. This system requires the person to schedule an appointment online – which automatically requires a certain degree of computer savvy and, at this point, speed—and have their own transportation. Both requirements are limiting to many seniors, particularly those that are poor and very elderly.
If the State agencies distributed the vaccine to senior medical centers, we would quickly mediate this accessibility issue. In IMC Health’s case, we serve 10,000 Medicare patients. We are experienced in senior care and have the capabilities to ensure a smooth rollout of vaccinations to that high-risk demographic. Our Primary Care Providers can identify the higher-risk patients, among those included in the Governor's Executive Order, conduct outreach to them, and in many cases we can provide transportation. We have multiple locations, advanced reporting and the clinical infrastructure to train and supervise the staff administering the vaccines. Additionally, we are prepared to receive and store the Pfizer vaccine and make the necessary purchases to store it appropriately.
To end this pandemic once and for all, we need to ensure that our most vulnerable senior population is looked after. That’s why trusted senior medical centers need to be included in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Mayda Antun, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer of IMC Health Medical Centers
Original article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel