LAKELAND - As of Monday, select physician clinics across the province began offering patients the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have selected 10 clinics based on geography as well as a cross-section of small, medium, and large clinics, both rural and urban to participate in a proof of concept, limited roll out," detailed Ernst Greyvenstein, Primary Care Network (PCN) physician lead for the Calgary zone and PCN physician delegate to the COVID-19 vaccination efforts prevention. "The reason for that is to learn from the experiences of these clinics in order to make this as smooth and as user-friendly for all of our clinics to participate, as well as to ensure we have a good patient experience when it comes to getting their vaccines from their family physicians office."
The pilot, that started April 19 and is expected to last about a week, is to test the most effective ways of transporting, booking, and administering the vaccine specifically through community clinics.
Greyvenstein explained, “There’s obviously a limited supply for the vaccine at the moment and we thought this was the wise way of managing that limited supply. We’ve recognized a larger roll out might risk disengagement from clinics if we don’t have everything in place in ahead of time."
According to Greyvenstein, there are two clinics within the Alberta Health Services (AHS) north zone that are taking part in the pilot; however, he couldn't confirm the exact locations.
“Part of the reason for that is because we want to protect other clinics. We don’t want patients to start phoning all of their family physicians across the province asking them about the vaccine,” he said. “We have explicitly stated that the clinics that are participating will reach out to their patients."
Each of the clinics participating will receive 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
In order to help with the roll out of the program, AHS, the PCN, and the Alberta Medical Association have created a toolkit with learning modules.
“For that reason, these clinics are perfectly situated to test all of these, and we’re very excited that approximately 280 further clinics have expressed their interest in participating in the larger roll out, which would happen beginning to mid-May,” Greyvenstein said, adding once the pilot has wrapped up, AHS, the PCN, and the Alberta Medical Association will gather feedback from the participating groups.
“Then we will collect all of the information including questionnaires and interviews from these clinics in order to have an on-boarding session for all of the other clinics at the end of April."
When asked why the province has decided to go this route, Greyvenstein said these clinics have already been playing an integral part in COVID management."
"In rural communities, your physicians who are already burdened significantly with their workload have taken on the responsibility of managing patients with COVID in the community, freeing up some of their resources in hospitals by caring for those patients in community offices,” he said.
Greyvenstein continued, “Patients have such a trusting relationship with their family physician that this is the perfect opportunity for a conversation to happen, for difficult questions to be asked by patients, and to help them in getting the vaccine as well. That’s why it’s important for us to bring this as close to the patient and the patient’s medical home as we can."
He explained how those "who are more isolated can be more at risk for certain complications. What we are doing is looking closely at where pharmacies are currently providing their services and where AHS is providing their services for vaccinations, and now also family physicians; and between those three providers, ensure we have equitable access for all Albertans.”
The province is currently in phase 2C of the vaccine roll out, which includes the vaccination of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and other health care professionals who provide in-person, direct patient care. Those working in-patient care facilities or providing services directly to clients in the community for AHS, Covenant Health, Alberta Precision Labs, DynaLife and students working in these clinical areas, and healthcare workers on First Nation reserves and Métis Settlements also fall under this phase.
On April 13, the province reached one million vaccine doses delivered, with every adult in Alberta expected to be offered a first dose by the end of June.
Premier Jason Kenney said in a release, “This milestone is proof that we are stronger when we all work together. We would not have reached this milestone without the significant efforts of many Albertans – from those planning logistics to the front-line workers delivering immunizations. Thanks to our province’s rapidly growing capacity to deliver vaccines quickly and safely into the arms of Albertans, as well as a recent boost in the number of vaccines coming in to our province, a safer return to normal is drawing nearer.”
Greyvenstein stated, “COVID vaccination is a natural next step in getting us back to normal.”