COVID-19Infectious DiseasesPreventive Medicine


I like to think that most patients who have a long-term relationship with their family physician develop a level of confidence in the opinions and advice they receive from their physician. I feel that way because about every day of my 40 years in practice I was asked for advice on a myriad of subjects. While it’s true not everyone has a family doctor, many of those who don’t have an internist or a gynecologist who functions as their advisor and primary care provider. Unfortunately, millions of folks have only the ER as their source of medical care and don’t develop a relationship with their physician. The private medical practice milieu in which I worked is unfamiliar to them. 

The confidence patients have in their physician was an underlying factor in a recent article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JAFBM). A group of researchers from three family medicine residencies in Wichita, Kansas studied the perception of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines among family doctors. What do family doctors think of the COVID-19 vaccines being given today? It investigated if they intended to be vaccinated themselves, if they recommended it to their family, and if they recommended it to their patients. They were also asked how concerned they were about personally becoming infected with COVID-19, and their level of concern for family and patients getting it, as well. 

The study surveyed 307 practicing family doctors from Kansas over a two-week period in December, 2020. The doctors represented were in private practice, were full-time faculty physicians, or were resident physicians. They answered a 20-item questionnaire that assessed their perceptions of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The results echo my personal opinion about the need for and safety of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19.

Of the 307 doctors polled only 157 (51.1%) responded to the survey. That’s just over half of the participants. And those polled were from only one geographic area, Kansas. Thus, the study had significant limitations in the selection of participants.

However, I still found the results very interesting.

90.6% of respondents expressed their intention to receive an approved vaccine.

Only 1.6% expressed “outright rejection of the vaccines….simply did not want the vaccination.”

Nearly 8% “indicated…hesitancy…concerns about safety and side effects….”

90.5% recommended it for family, 2% did not.

94.9% recommended it for patients, 5.1% said maybe, 0% said no.

That a very resounding endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine! Those willing to be vaccinated cited several reasons why. They are:

  1. To prevent the spread of infection
  2. To protect self, family, and others against COVID-19
  3. To contribute to Herd Immunity
  4. To end the pandemic and bring life back to normal
  5. To inspire confidence that the vaccine is safe

The confidence patients develop in their physician was an important factor in the purpose of this study. Patients tend to follow the advice of their doctor, and ask their opinions on just about anything. The authors stated “physician perception of positive benefits and safety of….vaccines may improve the general public’s confidence in the vaccine…. This is especially relevant given that physicians are regarded as a trusted source of vaccination information.” 

Physicians also expressed confidence in the FDA, CDC, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices which reassures patients the information they’re receiving is factual. So much of what we hear about vaccines is colored by the perspective and agenda of the reporting individual. If your doctor trusts these agencies, and trusts the vaccine, you’re likely to feel better about the recommendations you’re hearing. The chances of you deciding to be vaccinated increase significantly. 

A secondary question answered by this study was physician’s degree of fear of getting COVID-19. 


25.1% were extremely concerned

47.9% were moderately concerned

19.2% were slightly concerned

7.8% were not at all concerned  


33.1% were extremely concerned

39.9% were moderately concerned

13.5% were somewhat concerned

10.2% were slightly concerned

3.4% were not at all concerned  


51.5% were extremely concerned

39.6% were moderately concerned

6.8% were somewhat concerned

1.7% were slightly concerned

0.3% were not at all concerned  

From these statistics, it is clear that family physicians were nearly 20% more concerned about their patients becoming infected with COVID-19 than they were for themselves or their families. That may stem from a physicians ability to control his environment and protect himself from exposure by the use of personal protective equipment. The percentages of concern for family members is a bit troubling because their exposure is essentially the same as that of patients. The greater the level of concern about personal exposure to COVID-19, the greater was the physician’s intention to get vaccinated. 

This blog is an extension of the “Vaccine Hesitancy” and “Vaccine and Civil Liberties” blogs and provides a different perspective on the vaccine acceptance issue. If I were still in practice my reply to the questions would be

          Yes, I would be vaccinated myself (I have been)

          Yes, I would recommend vaccination for my family and my patients

          Yes, I would be somewhat concerned about personally becoming infected

          Yes, I would be moderately concerned about my family becoming infected

          Yes, I would be extremely concerned about patients becoming infected with COVID 

Now that the FDA has clouded the picture and voted against a booster shot of vaccine, for everyone except for immunosuppressed individuals and the very high risk elderly, we have another issue to debate and politicize.** With all the “breakthrough cases” we’ve seen in previously vaccinated people, not recommending a booster seems a bit short-sighted to me. Why not give a booster this year then wait a year to see what happens. Give people a big dose of immunity now and see if it persists. Oh, well, I’m not in charge. I don’t have an MBA or MPH (Masters in Public Health) degree, either, so that disqualifies my opinion. 

I do hope people will get vaccinated for the reasons 1 through 5 listed above. It’s the responsible thing to do. 

**  On September 23, 2021 the CDC announced they recommended a booster vaccination for all people over the age of 65. I agree with this decision because the elderly are at most risk from COVID-19, and the senior demographic has mentally prepared themselves for this eventuality. 

Reference: Ofei-Dodoo S, Kellerman R, Russell T. Family Physicians’ Perception of the New mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines JABFM 2021 Sep-Oct;34(5):898-905. 

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