Americans are used to thinking of their doctor’s offices as the place to go for vaccinations, but the process for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine has largely bypassed primary care physicians. In a survey of primary care doctors, 32 percent said they hadn’t been included in any state or regional planning and had no idea when or if they would get vaccines for their patients. Years of surveys suggest, however, that primary care doctors are the most trusted source of information about vaccines and vaccine safety. A 2015 survey of Oklahoma residents, for example, found that 81 percent trusted their health care providers for health information — compared with 24 percent who said the internet was a trustworthy source.

There are a number of reasons why people like my dad can’t just go to their primary care doctor for a COVID-19 vaccine, said Julie Swann, a professor and head of North Carolina State University’s department of industrial and systems engineering. The storage and distribution needs of the different vaccines, especially the requirements for ultra-cold storage, are a big part of this. Initially, the Food and Drug Administration said the Pfizer vaccine had to be stored between -112 degrees Fahrenheit and -76 degrees Fahrenheit — something most doctor’s offices couldn’t do. Nor do they have the ability to vaccinate as many people per day as public health experts say is necessary to effectively combat the virus.  “Even if you have more of these individual doctors," said Swann, "if you have 10 mass vaccination sites and each doing 5,000 shots per day, how many doctors would you need if the doctors are only giving 100 [vaccinations] per day?”

Mass vaccination sites can leave a trust gap in who gets vaccinated, however. They’re good at efficiently vaccinating lots of people quickly — not necessarily good at vaccinating everyone. When the Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans about the COVID-19 vaccines in December, they found that 39 percent were adopting a “wait and see” approach — they didn’t want to be among the first and fastest to get the vaccine. That same group, though, showed a lot of trust in their doctors to tell them which vaccine was safe and when it was safe to get it — 87 percent of those wait-and-seers trusted their own health care providers. Primary care doctors are likely going to become an important part of COVID vaccination later, Murphy said, when getting more people vaccinated starts to mean “getting the hesitant people vaccinated.”

Read the full article about mass vaccination by Maggie Koerth at FiveThirtyEight.