It is not uncommon for patients to ask doctors or practice staff about the vaccination status of the team. Indeed, more than half of the respondents (53 percent) to a recent Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll said that they are getting this question “once in a while” and 12 percent said they are asked “quite often.” More than a quarter (28 percent) said that patients do not or rarely ask about vaccination status.
For some, the frequency of this question seems to be waning, with 7 percent saying they heard the question more frequently earlier. However, nearly 5 percent said they have begun hearing it more frequently recently.
RESPONDING TO PATIENT QUESTIONS
Overall, two-thirds of the respondents, 66 percent, said that they volunteer their own vaccination status if asked. Indeed, some use it as a marketing tool. One male OD responded, “I have my vaccination card blown up and attached to the wall so anyone can see it.” One female OD wrote, “We are very forthcoming about our complete office vaccination status and promote it.”
More than a third of respondents (35 percent) said they relay the safety protocols the office used without revealing specific employee information. However, a number of these respondents also said that they will volunteer their own vaccination status, especially if asked directly. About 10 percent of respondents reported that they did not and will not volunteer their vaccination status to patients.
While 75 percent of the male OD respondents said that they volunteer their own vaccination status – and many said they promote that of the entire staff — slightly fewer (69 percent of women ODs) said the same.
CONVERSATIONS IN THE EXAM ROOM
Whether vaccination status of patients is or should be part of the exam seems to be an area of more debate. Among the 351 ODs who responded to this survey, (206 women, 139 men and six who preferred not to specify gender), the answers were divided between those who ask patients about their vaccination status and those who do not. Slightly more respondents — about 55 percent of the total– said they do not ask patients about their vaccination status, while 40 percent said they do. Among ODs respondents, the most common responses to this question follows; respondents could choose more than one response.
No, it’s not relevant to the eye exam. (93 responses)
Yes, in hopes that I can encourage/answer their questions. (83 responses)
No, I do not want to open the door to that discussion. (71 responses)
It depends/sometimes. (69 responses)
Yes, that information is relevant. (63 responses)
A number of doctors wrote in, saying that if they need to ask the patient to remove his or her mask, that may cause them to ask about vaccination status. Others are trying to figure out the best way to approach it. As one female OD wrote, “I’ve been unsure if it is something that I should be asking and documenting. I’m in neuro-rehab and I’ve seen some patients with neurological fallout after having COVID.”
On this and other forums, some ODs express frustration with patients’ reluctance or even refusal to wear a mask. One male OD wrote, “I ask all my patients if they have been vaccinated; one patient thought it was none of my business and wanted to report me to some agency, whatever that might be, for asking. I believe it is like asking about any medications that they are taking or any medical conditions that they may have. Also, I feel such knowledge is for protection for me, my staff and any other patients that stop in. So, I am disgusted with such ridiculousness and so I am releasing this patient from my practice.”
Overall, nearly 72 percent of the respondents to the poll said they are fully vaccinated, with 18 percent saying they are not and 7 percent preferring not to answer that question.
A majority of respondents were female ODs (50.9 percent), and 34.6 percent were male ODs.