Doctors ‘driven crazy’ with patients’ inquiries about COVID-19 vaccines

Many organizations have not worked the answers regarding vaccinations

A doctor told top editors of a respected medical journal that he and other primary care physicians are "being driven crazy" by patients’ calls and emails about when they will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The comments from cardiologist and primary care physician Dr. Thomas Lee arose in an interview published Thursday with editors of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"One thing that primary care physicians like me are being driven crazy by, are, we’re getting emails and calls from patients saying, ‘When can I get vaccinated?’" said Lee, who practices at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Lee also serves as editor-in-chief of a NEJM sister publication, NEJM Catalyst, among additional roles.

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He said that while some organizations can offer an explanation, detailing how patients can expect communication, others have yet to sort that issue out. 

"But there are many organizations where they have not worked the answers to those questions out yet," Lee said. "They really should be addressing patient concerns."

Many patients are asking when they can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (iStock)

Many patients are asking when they can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (iStock)

The comments come as the cardiologist says logistical challenges in administering doses to health care workers are slowly being addressed, but the real challenge, according to Lee, is rolling doses out to patients.

The uptick in questions from patients arises amid a blurring line between overlapped phases in vaccine priority groups.

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Many have criticized the country's growing number of unused coronavirus vaccines sitting on shelves, and a top federal official said Wednesday states should vaccinate older, vulnerable Americans.

"States can also accelerate vaccine administration by moving on to providing vaccinations to broader populations right now," said Alex Azar, secretary of human and health services, during a briefing. "There is no reason that states need to complete, say, vaccinating all health care providers before opening up vaccinations to older Americans or other especially vulnerable populations."

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A panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously recommended that states prioritize vaccinations for front-line medical workers and residents of long term care facilities, in a so-called Phase 1a, with non-health care essential workers (including firefighters, police officers and teachers) and those 75 and older next in line. 

Federal recommendations for Phase 1c allot doses to people aged over 65 and those aged 16-64 with underlying medical conditions heightening the risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

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However, states ultimately decide which populations receive vaccines, and when. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, has said the state will prioritize inoculating those 65 and older, in a shift from federal recommendations.

Click here to learn more about the CDC's recommendations for priority groups.