As part of my Family Medicine rotation during medical school this spring, I spent four weeks rotating with a practicing family physician in Mississippi. Part of my role was to talk to patients and gather information about why they were visiting the clinic that day. I also spent time discussing preventive tests, screenings, and immunizations for which they were eligible.
I saw firsthand how varied replies can be when I asked them if they wanted to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or booster if they were eligible. Some were not interested, some were interested but hesitant, and some were very enthusiastic. I asked them if they had any questions, reviewed basic safety data, reviewed their particular concerns (often issues related to fertility, safety, or non-medical concerns such as political issues), and had success a fair amount of time in getting patients to at least agree to think about receiving the vaccine if they did not outright agree to immunization. Many patients had already received their first vaccine or vaccine series and were eager to determine if they were eligible for a booster. I prepared this information and presented it to my precepting physician, who would then answer further questions from the patient and encourage them to receive their vaccines or boosters as appropriate.
A few of the questions we answered most often were related to the following issues:
- YES, patients can receive the vaccine if they have previously had Covid-19. Timing may be affected if patients received antibody infusions.
- YES, patients may “mix” vaccines if they received one type for their initial series and want to receive another type for their booster dose.
- YES, patients who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant may receive the vaccine. It is strongly recommended that women who are pregnant or lactating receive the vaccine.
A take home lesson from the month was that many patients benefit from having a one-on-one discussion with their physician (or in my case, medical student and physician) to answer their questions. Many who had not been vaccinated are not fully aware of the issues and risks of having Covid-19, even “this far” into the pandemic. But I was relieved to see many patients eager to get their boosters, with the phone ringing off the hook with patients calling to get on the schedule as soon as booster eligibility updates were published. As I left the rotation, the CDC figures most recently (end of March 2022) showed that 65.5% of the eligible US population was fully vaccinated, meaning they had received all covid-19 vaccinations for which they were eligible. Of course, Mississippi falls below this.
As I returned to finish the rest of my academic year in medical school, I left with opened eyes for what Mississippians’ concerns are for the vaccine but also hopeful that many will continue to receive vaccinations and boosters to protect themselves and their loved ones. One of my favorite patients I saw during my month in rural practice was an older gentleman north of 70 years old, and as I reviewed his eligibility for the second Covid-19 booster, he stopped me and said, “I’ll take ‘em all, Doc!”