Upon the approval of the first vaccines to combat COVID-19 in the U.S., the American Board of Internal Medicine launched an effort to encourage physicians to publicly share their own vaccinations in an attempt to demonstrate the importance of doing so. “We know that there is an enormous amount of vaccine skepticism in the general population and even among colleagues in health care,” ABIM states in a recent blog post to its members. “We also know that, in order for there to be impact in fighting this pandemic, upwards of 70% of the population needs to take it. As a board-certified physician, the decisions you make about being immunized will have an impact on the decisions made by your patients, your families, and your colleagues.”
The initiative urges physicians to join a coordinated campaign on major social media platforms to promote the importance of vaccination against COVID-19. Doctors have subsequently taken to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to post selfies of themselves getting vaccinated and encouraging others to do the same. Robert D. Siegel, MD, chair of ABIM's Medical Oncology Board, says that while these selfies promote the importance of vaccination, the aim of the overall initiative is wider. “We are also trying to underscore the important of science,” says Dr. Siegel. “An anti-science attitude is pervasive right now, and it is being stirred up by current politics. This creates a terrible environment for physicians. For us at ABIM, it is important to underscore that science is real, facts are facts, and we need to be listening to what researchers are telling us.”
Dr. Siegel, who is a board-certified internist, hematologist, and medical oncologist, says it is particularly important for cancer care providers to be vaccinated. “We deal with a particularly vulnerable population,” he explains. “To the extent that anyone has the potential to bring this virus unwittingly into an environment with individuals who are immunosuppressed, the importance of vaccination is clear. We need to protect our patients and ourselves.”
Dr. Siegel also emphasizes the importance of vaccinating the entire cancer care team. He says that where he practices, staff who have inpatient responsibilities are being vaccinated, but the support staff who also come into contact with patients currently are not. “The vaccination effort will be limited by different state and regional roll-out plans,” says Dr. Siegel, “so right now, for many places, logistics are dictating who is vaccinated and when.”
Dr. Siegel says that as a well-respected certification body for physicians across all specialties in internal medicine, ABIM is uniquely suited to demonstrate a physician’s decision to be vaccinated as emblematic of the importance of protecting oneself against this terrible virus. “We try to espouse professionalism in the physician community,” explains Dr. Siegel, “and we felt that being front and center of the vaccination effort would convey its importance to everyone.”
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