January 19, 2021, 4:00 pm News Staff — As COVID-19 spread across the country last spring, medical schools pulled students from clinical rotations. The AAFP responded with a policy that called for protecting medical learners’ safety and well-being but also stressed the importance of providing opportunities for students and residents to complete their training requirements effectively and efficiently.
In light of students reporting barriers to receiving COVID-19 vaccinations and voicing new concerns to the AAFP about being pulled from clinical clerkships, the Academy has updated its policy with the following addition: “In clinical settings, medical students should be considered part of the essential health care team and, along with other health professionals, be given access to vaccines and other protective measures in an early phase of vaccine administration.”
“If medical students are being asked to continue with direct patient care, they need to be afforded the same protections as other health care workers,” said Cynthia Ciccotelli, the student member of the AAFP Board of Directors.
Unfortunately, some students are again being removed from direct patient care because they aren’t yet vaccinated. The situation appears to be most difficult for medical schools that not associated with a health system.
“It varies widely between hospitals, health systems, communities and states,” said Ciccotelli, who noted that her institution has prioritized medical students along with the rest of the health care team. “We’re on the front line, so we need the same protection to see patients and to feel safe doing so.”
AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., said stakeholders should do all they can to avoid disruptions in medical education.
“We need to ensure that medical students can continue the learning process in a way that is safe and protected,” she said.
The AAFP is also pressing federal and state officials to ensure that community primary care physicians and their practices have access to COVID-19 vaccines.