“It’s almost like the wild west” – Private practices say they’re not sure where they stand with COVID-19 vaccine allocation
DELAWARE – Nearly three weeks ago, 47ABC spoke with private practices about where they stand in terms of getting their hands on COVID-19 vaccines. But Wednesday, those healthcare providers say they still don’t know when or if they’ll get them. “Our impression was that once we finished this process with DelVAX, then it was really just as easy as getting scheduled and someone saying ‘Hey are you guys available on this date?'” said owner of Pearl Clinic Dr. Sherin Howett.
Delaware is currently in phase 1A of their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which includes healthcare providers. But Dr. Howett says about two and a half weeks after applying for their allocation, they’re still in the dark as to whether or not they can even get the vaccines for staff and eventually patients. “It’s almost like the wild west where it’s every man for himself. If you’re not part of this big group or chain, good luck,” said Dr. Howett.
The Delaware Division of Public Health tells 47ABC that several private practices have received their share. But acknowledge that the process of applying for the vaccines can be difficult and confusing. “The feedback that we have received is that it may be cumbersome and we have a team available to help people out through this process,” said DPH Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong.
Dr. Rick Hong says another issue lies in making sure they aren’t letting any doses go to waste. The DPH says that those order requirements can sometimes be too large to easily sort through and distribute to healthcare providers. For example, Dr. Hong tells 47ABC the Pfizer vaccine has a minimum order requirement of 975 doses. “One of the challenges getting vaccines out directly to providers is minimum order requirements,” said Dr. Hong.
Dr. Howett says she understands why large hospital systems are some of the first to get their allocations. But she’s left wondering what the difference between them and private healthcare providers is when it comes to who gets the vaccines first. “I feel like the private practices who are in the community are a forgotten group, where nobody’s really advocating for us. Nobody’s communicating with us. Nobody’s reaching out going ‘We know you guys are here’,” said Dr. Howett.
Dr. Howett says for now, she’s balancing keeping her staff updated on when and if they’ll get their share of vaccines – and explaining the process to her patients without many answers herself. “We have to apologize and say we are trying everything we can. We’re communicating with all the people that we know to communicate with, or that we can even get through to talk to them,” said Dr. Howett.
When asked what healthcare providers can do if they’re not sure about their allocation status, the DPH said that they should reach out to their support team. The support team can be reached at CovidVaccine@Delaware.gov.