ADEA Supports Legislation to Permanently Allow Dental Students to Provide Vaccinations

Dentistry Today


The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is hailing the introduction of a bill that would permanently allow qualified health professions students including dental students to administer vaccines during federally declared public health emergencies.

The bipartisan Student Assisted Vaccination Effort (SAVE) Act comes more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced public health authorities to rethink the value and role of healthcare students in responding to such crises, the ADEA said.

Introduced by Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the bill builds off the amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration announced by the White House on March 12.

The bill permanently authorizes more than a million skilled dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary, physician assistant, optometry, and other health professions students to administer COVID-19 vaccines with supervision.

“This piece of legislation is a welcome development in recognizing the invaluable role that dental students can play in responding to public health emergencies,” said Karen West, DMD, MPH, ADEA president and CEO.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed students step up and serve their communities with compassion and expertise. Their talents and contributions should not go ignored once this particular crisis is over,” said West.

The legislation follows a year during which Students Assist America (SAA), an interprofessional initiative of 12 health professions associations, including the ADEA, advocated for allowing qualified students to help the United States healthcare workforce in times of crisis.

“The founding vision for Students Assist America is connected to the osteopathic philosophy of holistic wellness, and we invited the interprofessional health community to call on the unique knowledge and commitment of their students to help the country,” said Robert A. Cain, DO, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, which spearheaded SAA.

“Permanently authorizing health professions students to vaccinate during emergencies as proposed by the SAVE Act will better protect our nation’s health and safety in the future. We were honored to work with Senators Kelly and Collins to shape this legislation,” Cain said.

Enacting policies now that help the country prepare for future pandemics is of the utmost importance as the lack of a sufficient workforce hindered the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the ADEA said.

The SAVE Act would help establish consistent options for vaccinators across all states and territories than can be implemented immediately, the ADEA continued. Building a stronger national infrastructure to meet public health needs is critical, the ADEA said, as it is not a question of if but when the next crisis occurs.

The world has experienced five pandemics and novel viral outbreaks since 2000, the ADEA said, including:

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002-2003
  • Swine flu or H1N1 in 2009
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012-2013
  • Ebola in 2014-2016 with additional cases through 2021
  • COVID-19 from 2019 through the present

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