We know a large percentage of the U.S. population falls into a vaccine-hesitant group. In fact, only 60% of Americans plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an article in The Atlantic.1 Given that rheumatology patients are among the vulnerable, we asked a handful of ACR/ARP members whether they have been vaccinated themselves and how they are broaching the topic with their patients.
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Explore This IssueMay 2021
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Below are some tips to help get the conversation about vaccination started with your patients.
Suleman Bhana, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR’s Communications and Marketing Committee and a rheumatologist in practice at Crystal Run Healthcare, West Nyack, N.Y., says, “I have been vaccinated, along with my adult family members.”
Dr. Bhana says he is recommending all his patients get vaccinated. “I ask them the following questions during a visit: 1) Did you get your COVID-19 vaccine yet? 2) Do you have an appointment or plan to get it? 3) Do you have any concerns about that vaccine that I can help answer?
“I tell them that a national organization has convened a group of physician scientists to give guidelines and recommendations, and I paraphrase the ACR position statement, indicating that all patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases should receive COVID-19 vaccination, including those on immunomodulatory therapy.2
“I then go over any questions they may have about medication management.
“I find it best to acknowledge their concerns within reason. In the rare event I have a patient who states, ‘There are microchips in the vaccine,’ that ends the conversation for me.”
Talk to Every Patient
“The great news is that a majority of my patients are already vaccinated at Houston Methodist,” says Kanika Monga, MD. Dr. Monga completed her internship and residency training at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, where she also performed a fellowship in rheumatology. She is a rheumatologist at Houston Methodist Academic Medicine Associates.
“I broach the topic with every patient I see in my clinic,” says Dr. Monga. “I respect that each patient is different and may be on different levels of understanding of what is safe and available for them. I reassure them that we have excellent guidance from the ACR, especially when it comes to specific DMARDs/biologics.
“We go through some of the charts together. I remind them that, at the end of the day, their personal choice matters most, but I am available to help dispel myths and acknowledge concerns they may have. I also add that my own family has gotten vaccinated as well.
“As a pregnant patient myself,” continues Dr. Monga, “I understand the importance of getting vaccinated to protect me, the community and my baby. My obstetrician strongly recommends vaccination because she believes pregnant patients are more likely to get a COVID-related illness if they are exposed to the virus.”