The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is urging federal health officials to permit qualified and licensed dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines.
In a letter to Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health & Human Services and vaccinations coordinator Bechara Choucair, MD, of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the AGD voiced its support of President Biden’s plan to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so.
According to the AGD, “dentists are essential primary healthcare providers who continue to serve on our nation’s frontlines and have both the experience and expertise to help the nation’s pandemic response efforts.”
The AGD also noted dentists’ training in “human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology as well as in administering intraoral anesthesia.” Further, the AGD said, it “is arguably technically more difficult to administer an inferior alveolar nerve block inside the oral cavity than to administer a subcutaneous or intramuscular vaccine to an exposed arm.”
Several states already allow dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines, including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington. Regulations and eligibility vary by state.
Expanding the scope of practice for dentists, especially during health crises, is not unprecedented, and the nation “should make every effort to reduce barriers associated with immunization disparities in this country during these unique circumstances,” the AGD said.
“With factors including lack of access and insurance, public distrust in science, and concerns about vaccine side effects and safety affecting vaccination rates, we must do everything we can to ensure those wishing to get a COVID-19 vaccine can do so once they are available,” the AGD said.
Dentists could increase accessibility to the vaccine particularly in rural areas where clinics and drug stores may not be available, the AGD additionally said. And as the national COVID-19 vaccination strategy is developed, the AGD asked the officials to use all feasible methods to expand dentists’ scope of practice to aid in outbreak prevention and control.
“We stand ready to assist with the logistics and practical implementation questions of the expanded scope of practice, including but not limited to insurance code and reimbursement questions; vaccine acquisition, preservation, and disposal; and immunization reporting requirements,” the AGD said.