AVAC Spotlight: Laura Morris, MD – University of Missouri

AVAC Spotlight: Laura Morris, MD
Family Medicine Physician and Associate Professor at the University of Missouri

A strong recommendation from a physician is one of the top factors associated with a patient receiving a vaccine. In a time when misinformation about vaccines is increasingly circulated online and vaccine hesitancy is on the rise, it is more important than ever that physicians are making a strong recommendation to their patients about getting immunized.

During AVAC’s June briefing on immunizing in a COVID-19 environment, Dr. Laura Morris, a Family Medicine Physician, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, and the 2018 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Vaccine Science Fellow, explained how she counsels patients on immunization by basing her advice on science and making clear and strong recommendations. Particularly among the adult population, many of whom do not know that there are vaccines recommended for adults and have a difficult time keeping track of which vaccinations they are missing, recommendations by physicians are crucial for increasing immunization rates.

Dr. Morris also highlighted some of the challenges that providers face when counseling patients on immunizations. Counseling on vaccines is increasingly important but it is also time consuming and costly. Financial constraints prevent many physicians’ offices from stocking vaccines recommended for adults. When a recommended vaccine is not available at the physician’s office, the patient is less likely to receive the vaccine because it requires them to go elsewhere for the vaccine to be administered.

Additionally, physicians are not adequately compensated for the time it takes to counsel patients on which immunizations they should receive. Physicians already face time constraints during the day and it is important they are compensated for the time they spend on advising patients on which vaccines they should receive. That is why counseling on vaccines should be made a viable billing code. Not only would this incentivize physicians to take the time to make strong recommendations to patients which is associated with higher patient acceptance of vaccines, but it would also reduce financial barriers that prevent many offices from stocking all recommended vaccines for adults.

As Dr. Morris pointed out during the briefing, the majority of practices that choose not to administer vaccines to patients made this decision due to finances. Reducing financial barriers for physicians is critical for ensuring that adults have access to necessary immunizations.