CAMBRIDGE — Dr. Sara Coulbourn and her staff at Dorchester Family Medicine were praised Friday for their extraordinary efforts and success in vaccinating patients against COVID-19. Executive Director of the Maryland Primary Care Program Dr. Howard Haft presented a plaque to Dr. Coulbourn, while State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) brought a citation in the practice’s honor from the Maryland Senate.
The Senate citation reads, “In recognition of your service and dedication to our most vulnerable populations by being honored as the number-one private practice in Maryland to vaccinate the most Medicare patients. Thank you for your commitment to our community, district and state. Congratulations!”
Beginning March 23, primary care practices throughout Maryland joined the state’s vaccination effort, administering vaccines directly to the patients they serve. The Maryland Primary Care Program is a statewide advanced primary care program with 562 practices.
The efforts of Dr. Coulbourn and her staff placed them in the top 10 percent in the state, with many of the others probably having an easier time compiling their numbers — those in institutions, for instance, can often simply provide the shots to those who live there.
But at Dorchester Family Medicine, “We personally called every single one,” Dr. Coulbourn said, to set up appointments and sometimes to convince them of the need.
That can be the hard part.
“We’re still getting push-back,” said Sen. Eckardt, who is also a nurse. There are some, especially in conservative circles, who stress the aspect of freedom, rather than a duty to others.
After many years in politics, Sen. Eckardt said, “I’ve never seen it like this before.”
“It’s never been this polarized,” Dr. Haft said.
Others follow rumors, such as the one that says the vaccine can make a person infertile. That, Dr. Coulbourn said, is just false.
In some communities, memories of abusive tests years ago lead them to say they don’t want their children used as “guinea pigs”. Sometimes, it’s a certain segment of the local population that is opposed to vaccinations, with watermen being mentioned as particularly resistant.
Finally, it comes down to the trust built between a doctor and her patients. “Health care is so personal,” Sen. Eckardt said.
Kari Harper is the nurse manager of the primary care program at the practice, and the one who took lead in explaining to patients why the vaccine is important. She said the statements that have been most effective are the ones that ask a person to look beyond himself and to consider others.
“Don’t you want to protect your grandparents?” or children, Ms. Harper said is the question that has turned around many skeptics.
Dr. Haft praised the work of the Dr. Coulbourn and the staff in overcoming difficulties in an area known for its vaccine doubts. As he presented a plaque to Dr. Coulbourn, he said, “Very few practices in the state have received this.”
While the local practice represents a significant success, the work — and the pandemic — continue.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 77.3 percent of Maryland’s population has received at least one dose, a total of 7,171,488 doses administered. There were 3,556,294 fully vaccinated Marylanders on Friday.
As of Friday, Maryland had lost 9,599 citizens to the virus, with 222 hospitalized at the time, an increase of seven in the previous 24 hours. Testing volume and hospital beds in use were both lower than they had been in a year, by late June and early July. Those numbers have begun to creep upwards statewide, as have the overall cases — 467,961 since the pandemic began, an increase on Friday of 526 over the previous day.
Dorchester Family Medicine is located at 300 Dorchester Ave. To reach the office, call 410-228-2603.