HEALTH

Headed to the doctor? Expect to be asked about the COVID-19 vaccine

Aug 9, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 7:48 am
Utah COVID-19 vaccine goal...
Gov. Spencer Cox, left, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site run by the Utah County Health Department in Spanish Fork on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — At the Midtown Community Center, the doctors and medical staff are sending text messages out to their patients telling them they can come get a COVID-19 vaccine.

And when people come in for medical care, they are also asked if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine or want one.

When they learn they can get it right then, they often say yes.

Of those who say they don’t want one, sometimes change their mind when they are able to talk more about their questions or concerns with Dr. Carissa Monroy, a family physician at the center.

“That feels so good. This is exactly what I want to do, and to offer my patients — a chance for them to talk to someone they trust, and dispel any myths,” she said.

COVID-19 vaccine convenience at the doctor’s office

She said the convenience of being able to give it to them right then is so helpful, too, because they don’t have to go anywhere else or take off work.

The majority of her patients live in poverty or are marginalized populations. It’s not easy because of transportation or meeting basic needs for them to go get the vaccine.

In other words, it wasn’t that they were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it was that the steps were barriers up to this point, she said.

That’s why the Utah Medical Association was asking for months to get the vaccine into the hands of physicians’ offices and health centers.

Monroy says they’ve now been giving them for about a month at Midtown.

“We were so excited the moment we received the vaccines, because there is such an opportunity in this setting to offer this to patients,” she said.

Answering questions, debunking myths

Other questions or concerns people have had include the side effects. They were worried they would miss work. But Monroy said she tells them her experience and other patients’ stories that mainly just involve a sore arm for a day. And she shares the data that if they come down with COVID-19, they do not know if they could have a severe case which would be much worse than any vaccine side effects.

Other people are more persuaded when she talks to them about how getting vaccinated also protects your family and community.

“I ask, what are your worries or questions about it? And then I can go through that,” said Monroy.

These same kinds of conversations are happening in other doctors’ offices of various types and specialties around the state.

Pediatricians on the COVID-19 vaccine

Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Brinton says she speaks to families about the COVID-19 vaccine for their children ages 12 and up.

She believes it is important for families to have someone they can talk to about any concerns or questions.

“I think it’s important to have a trusted voice talking with families about the importance of these immunizations, and how they are safety tested for our children. Children have done a good job getting the vaccines overall, and the disease they help prevent have really helped those children be a lot healthier,” said Brinton.

She is also the president of the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says the vaccine has proved safe and effective for kids ages 12 and up. And in a matter of months, it could be ready for age five and up.

Other steps you can take now

Brinton hopes parents can also take other steps to keep their kids healthy right now.

“Get into see your doctor, get back in if you haven’t had a visit yet. Do tele-health if you are uncomfortable, but also get those immunizations caught up,” said Brinton.

“We are there to serve you, to listen to you, to find answers to your questions, and we want to be a resource for you throughout the ups and downs that happen with or without a pandemic.”

The important role doctors play

The majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Utah right now involve unvaccinated adults. Recently. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson called on businesses, doctors and others to encourage vaccination.

“I’d encourage family doctors to reach out to patients via text and email to let them know the facts about the vaccine,” said Cox last week.

Studies have shown that physicians are the most likely people to be able to change someone’s minds, added Henderson. “Us standing up there talking to the unvaccinated is not going to move the needle much, but physicians, you play a critical role in this. Please reach out proactively to all of your patients and make sure they get vaccinated.”

She said she knows many clinics and offices still don’t have supply. So the state and local health departments are going to work together with them on that.

“The greatest way to protect kids is to get adults vaccinated,” Cox said. “We see a very low rate of spread among young people, so please please, adults, please get vaccinated.” 

“I would encourage everyone who is concerned to visit coronavirus.utah.gov to learn the facts, and talk to your doctor if you have questions. It’s truly the miracle we’ve been praying for,” said Cox.

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Headed to the doctor? Expect to be asked about the COVID-19 vaccine