'Inconceivable': many Quebec family doctors still not eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
MONTREAL -- While doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff who work with COVID patients were among the first people in Quebec to get their COVID-19 vaccines, many family doctors are still waiting their turn.
In a memo acquired by CTV News, Association des medecins omnipracticiens de Montreal president Michel Vachon told the association's members that he found the situation “inconceivable and unacceptable and we hope to correct it rapidly.”
Vachon said the association was in talks with the province's Health Ministry, vaccination committee and public health officials to get its members higher on the priority list.
According to a December Health Ministry directive on the prioritization of vaccinating healthcare workers, “Priority is based on the criticality of the sector or resources” and the vaccine should be given to “Staff in direct contact with users or in direct contact with staff giving care and services.”
In a statement sent to CTV News, the Quebec Health Ministry said prioritization for vaccine appointments was given to healthcare workers “having close physical contact with users.”
They added that healthcare workers such as dentists and those working in private clinics would like receive their first dose in April, “subject to the number of doses of vaccine received from the federal government.”
“As the quantity of vaccines available is limited, it is necessary to prioritize the people who receive them according to their vulnerability to the disease. It should be noted that age appears to be the primary risk factor for infection, complications and death,” they wrote.
One family doctor who asked to remain anonymous as they do not have permission to speak to media said they were concerned, as family doctors regularly treat seniors and others who are especially vulnerable to the virus.
Along with family doctors, many pediatricians are also waiting for their first dose. Mitchell Shiller, medical director for the Children's Care Clinic said while telemedicine has been used when possible, “we still see at least half to two-thirds of our patients on site daily. These are kids who go to daycare, go to school and clearly are exposed to COVID.”
Shiller said he has not received word on when he will be eligible for vaccination.
“Lots of pediatricians working in offices, they contacted us and said they've tried, some of them spent hours trying to get to the right person and trying to be immunized. Many of them are still not immunized at this point,” said Association of Pediatricians of Quebec president Marc Lebel.
Dr. Mitch Shulman said the lack of vaccination for family doctors could “theoretically” pose a threat to their patients.
“Doctors could be asymptomatic and still capable of infecting others, or could be incubating and infectious,” he said.
Shulman noted that many family doctors are seeing many patients via telemedicine and pointed out that many doctors working in hospitals who see COVID patients regularly have only received a single vaccine dose.
“I'm as front-line as you can be and at increased risk because of my age, but only have gotten one dose, and that only on Jan. 6,” he said.
- With files from CTV Montreal's Gabrielle Fahmy