July 16, 2021

In This Issue
Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in Clinical Settings: The Critical Role of Maine’s Physicians
A Call to Action- Protecting the Children of Maine
COVID News: Surgeon Gener Surgeon General Issues Vaccine Misinformation Warning; JAMA Peds Retracts Masks Study
Johnson & Johnson Recalls Sunscreens After Carcinogen Found
Opioid & Substance Use Disorder News
Medicare Updates
Federal Advocacy Update
Registration Open for MMA’s 168th Annual Membership Meeting (Sep 10-12)
Notice of Rulemaking: Immunization requirements for Maine school children
Maine Secretary of State Seeking Physician Volunteers
SUPPORT for ME: Strengthening Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Services for MaineCare Members
Are You a Professional Who Works with Individuals in Maine Who Have a Substance Use Disorder? We Want to Hear From You!
Maine Community Action Partnership: Did You Know?
MMA Mary Cushman, MD Award for Humanitarian Service
Upcoming Specialty Society Meetings
AAP EQIPP Course: Immunizations - Strategies for Success (for RURAL Health Providers)
SUPPORT for ME Training and Technical Assistance Initiative
Working with Children & Adolescents? Maine Pediatric & Behavioral Health Partnership (MPBHP) Webinar Series (July thru December 2nd Wednesday of month)
Physician (BC/BE in Family Medicine) - Strong Area Health Center
Physician (BC/BE in Family Medicine) - Richmond Area Health Center
Help educate new physicians – join our accredited Family Medicine Residency Program as faculty
Join our region-leading Neuroscience/Stroke Center
Contract Clinical Advisor - Healthcare Coalition of Maine
Medical Director

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Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in Clinical Settings: The Critical Role of Maine’s Physicians
By Lisa M. Letourneau, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Advisor for Delivery System Change

Through the collective efforts of the state and health care providers, Maine has done well in its efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccination. That said, as of mid-July, over a third of Mainers were still unvaccinated, and the threat posed by COVID-19 remains serious.  Seasonal trends and the continued emergence of viral variants indicate that infections will likely rise in the coming months unless we vaccinate more of the unvaccinated.  Maine DHHS continues to employ a multi-pronged vaccination strategy that includes both clinical and community vaccination sites, as well as an active communication campaign targeted to vaccine-hesitant individuals. But we need your help.

Physicians are consistently identified as highly trusted advisors and are among the most influential voices in driving their patients toward vaccination. The US CDC cites studies showing that a doctor’s strong recommendation is closely correlated with vaccination.  Additionally, a national survey of vaccine hesitant adults showed that 30% said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if the vaccine were offered to them during a routine medical visit.  As such, offering COVID vaccination in medical practices and health care settings is a key component of our state’s ongoing vaccination strategy.

Given this unique role, we urge physicians to take the following steps to support continued vaccination efforts: 

  • Always ask: As trusted advisors, physicians have a key opportunity to reinforce the importance of vaccination by asking patients about their COVID-19 vaccination status in every clinical encounter. Asking sends the clear message that you support COVID vaccination and opens the door to conversation. It also provides an opportunity to reinforce the decision of those who are vaccinated by encouraging them to talk with their family and friends about getting vaccinated.
  • Share your story: Sharing your personal story about getting the COVID vaccine can provide a helpful influence in your patients’ decision to get vaccinated. Strong statements can help, such as “I got vaccinated as soon as I could,” and “I encouraged my family and children to get vaccinated as well.”
  • Prepare to discuss concerns, and lead with empathy:  Reluctance to get vaccinated is often due to patient questions and concerns.  As a trusted advisor, you hold a key role in answering your patients’ questions and making a strong recommendation to get the vaccine can be pivotal to whether they choose to get vaccinated. National groups have studied effective messages that can address concerns about side effects, the rapid development of the vaccines, misinformation, and how to start the conversation with patients.
  • Offer COVID-19 vaccination in your practice or health care setting: Once a patient has agreed to get vaccinated, having the vaccine immediately available can make the difference in whether they follow through.  Maine CDC has made several changes to make it easier for practices to order and administer vaccine, including decreasing order sizes, updating storage requirements, and adjusting the “Efficient Use” policy. Research has shown that sending patients targeted communications such as “Your vaccine has been reserved for you” can also make a meaningful difference in vaccine uptake.  
  • Know where to refer your patients: If your practice cannot offer the COVID vaccine, identify 2-3 reliable options where you can refer your patients locally. Many sites offer drop-in hours including early morning and evening hours to accommodate busy schedules. Visit Maine’s list of COVID vaccination sites or encourage your patients to call the Maine Community Vaccination Line (1-888-445-4111) to find a vaccination location.

For more information on Maine DHHS’ efforts to promote the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Governor Mills’ COVID vaccine webpage. With your help, we can get these life-saving vaccines into the arms of remaining unvaccinated Mainers and bring this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible.

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