By Genni Burkhart
Make no mistake, the COVID-19 vaccination crusade is historic by every measure.
As the vaccine pace quickens under the new Biden administration, more Americans have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus when it first began last March.
In a recent report from Bloomberg.com, “In the U.S., the latest vaccination rate is 2,386,932 doses per day, on average. At this rate, it will take an estimated 5 months to cover 75% of the population with a two-dose vaccine.” However, with the increase of vaccine orders by the federal government and the expansion of medical professionals allowed to administer the vaccine, that timeline could be shortened in the United States.
As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and states begin expanding vaccine eligibility to everyone (such as Alaska), the logistical challenge of delivering millions of doses of vaccines into the arms of ready and willing adults ages 16+ becomes incredibly daunting.
The Federal Government Expands Medical Authorization
Enter professionals from all corners of the medical community and an amendment to an emergency declaration by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under this amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act dated March 11, 2021, healthcare providers including dentists and dental students are authorized to vaccinate patients for COVID-19 nationally.
While a number of states have already authorized dentists to administer the vaccine, this recent federal declaration allows licensed dentists across the nation to administer the vaccine in office or at vaccination sites regardless of state laws that might prevent a dentist from doing so.
In California, RDHs are allowed to administer the vaccine after completing the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine training course and a minimum of six hours of training through the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Additionally, CA Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order providing liability protection for dentists and all healthcare professionals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including RDHs.
Advocating for Dentists as Vaccinators
The statement reads, “The ordering and administration of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination can be within the scope of practice of a dentist licensed under chapter 18.32 RCW when the treating dentist has appropriate, verifiable training and experience that includes a hands-on component.”
The ADA has been hard at work advocating as well.
As a member of a professional coalition petitioning the federal government to expand their authority to allow dentists and RDHs to administer since last year, the ADA sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services again on February 11th asking them to issue guidance regarding “temporary liability protection” for dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines under the PREP Act. During the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, The ADA advocated for expanding the scope of practice to include dentists, as many states then allowed for oral health professionals to administer the H1N1 vaccine.
With the amendment to the PREP Act, dental professionals looking to take part in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign across the United States can find useful resources at the ADA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Center for Dentists. Here you’ll find a COVID-19 Vaccine Regulations for Dentists Map. This interactive tool will allow you to find:
- The phase of each state’s vaccination plan in which dentists are allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
- State-by-state preferences for allowing dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, the ADA has provided excellent COVID-19 resources for dental professionals relating from employer-employee pandemic related issues, federal student loan guidance under the CARES Act, patient communications on the virus, the option for a “live chat”, and an updated COVID-19 Vaccination Fact Sheet.
As the evolution of this pandemic continues to shift towards recovery, dentists, hygienists, and dental students are once again answering the call to administer life-saving vaccines during a time of national crisis. While the federal government has recently expanded liability protection to dentists, the decision to administer vaccines, whether in your dental practice or at a vaccination site, is a personal one. The most specific and up-to-date guidance for oral health professionals can be found from your respective state dental association, as well as resources on how to help vaccinate in your local community, should you choose.
Author: With over 10 years as a published journalist, editor, and writer Genni Burkhart’s career has spanned across politics, healthcare, law, business finance, and news. She resides on the western shores of the Puget Sound where she works as the Editor in Chief at DOCS Education out of Seattle, WA.