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The Charlotte Observer: ‘Lost opportunity’ – NC Vaccine Plan Overlooks Primary Care Doctors

Doctor Speaks With Patient at COVID-19 Testing Clinic

In an interview with The Charlotte Observer, Tryon Medical Partners’ CEO Dr. Dale Owen said failure to include primary care practices in COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a missed opportunity. While Tryon Medical has received approval to distribute COVID-19 vaccines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the practice has yet to receive doses from the State. The practice has received a limited supply as a transferred from Mecklenburg County Public Health.

Below are highlights of the story, posted by Hannah Smoot on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Read the entire story on The Charlotte Observer website.

  • Charlotte’s largest independent doctor’s office, Tryon Medical Partners, finally will receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines this week — between 100 and 200 doses.
  • But that’s not enough, according to Tryon Medical CEO Dr. Dale Owen. Primary care physicians have been left out of the state’s vaccine rollout from the beginning, he said.
  • “Patients have a relationship, a long-term, intricate, intimate relationship with their physicians, especially their primary care physicians,” Owen said. “And that’s really important to them. They rely on their guidance… That has been forgotten in this process.”
  • Other providers receiving vaccine shipments in Mecklenburg County, including hospital systems Atrium Health and Novant Health, along with the county health department, get the doses directly from the state. Tryon Medical’s shipment is a transfer of vaccines from Mecklenburg County Public Health, Owen said.
  • Eligible Tryon Medical patients are still able to make appointments with the county health department, Atrium or Novant.
  • But many people, especially elderly patients, have told Owen they’d prefer to get vaccinated by their primary care physician, he said. That includes elderly patients or people without reliable Internet access who might have difficulty signing up for an appointment with a new doctor or health system, Owen said.
  • The independent practice announced this month that it had been approved by the state to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. But doctors at Tryon Medical still don’t know when the state will begin sending them vaccines.
  • NC DHHS did not immediately respond to questions from the Observer.
  • Tryon Medical already has freezers to store over 200,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, which require extremely cold temperatures, Owen said, adding: “It’s been ready.”
  • The practice serves more than 150,000 patients in the Charlotte area. Owens estimates 30,000 to 40,000 of those patients are currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.
  • “Time is of the essence,” he said. “This is a race to vaccinate before a mutation develops that makes these vaccines ineffective.”
  • Tryon Medical has been involved in the COVID-19 vaccine efforts for months, and has even participated in vaccine trials for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
  • “We know what we’re doing,” Owen said. “We have great experience with the vaccines, and why we’re excluded is unbelievable.”