Align Technology has announced its support to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines by encouraging dentists in the United States to join in vaccination efforts.
As seen over the past year, managing healthcare resources during a pandemic or other health crises is a complex mix of preparation and execution, with access to responsible care being a key consideration, Align said.
Public health officials and healthcare providers have worked to balance access to COVID-19 testing and healthcare while meeting other health needs, both routine and unexpected, that continue during a pandemic, the company continued.
As the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 increases across the United States, Align said, it is important to review and build on lessons learned to optimize responsiveness for future events. One of those lessons is the potential value of using networks of existing, trusted, community-level healthcare providers when rolling out vaccination plans, the company said.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Align’s customers, primarily dentists and orthodontists across the country, have been at the forefront of their profession and healthcare, in general, using social media and virtual appointment and treatment monitoring tools to stay connected with and communicate public health and safety protocols to their patients,” said Julie Coletti, Align Technology senior vice president, chief legal and regulatory officer.
“As essential healthcare providers of ongoing healthcare services, they have earned their patients’ trust by staying current with the latest health and safety protocols and public health requirements to safely and responsibly treat their patients,” Coletti said.
As trusted, highly qualified healthcare professionals, Align said, dentists can expand the number of care providers offering immunizations. According to the ADA, 9% of Americans or 31 million people see a dentist each year but do not see a physicians. This is a significant statistic to be considered as part of any future plans for vaccine administration, Align said.
Before completing dental school and becoming licensed, Align said, dentists are trained to administer intraoral and extraoral injections into nerve tissue for local anesthesia, which is arguably more difficult to effectively administer than a vaccine injected into the shoulder muscle. Further, Align said, many states permit dentists to administer dermal fillers, Botox injections, and IVs for sedation.
Most states have established the foundation for dentist-provided vaccinations by permitting dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines. On March 16, the US Department of Health and Human Services amended an emergency declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to authorize additional providers, including dentists and dental students, to vaccinate patients for COVID-19 nationwide regardless of state laws that prevent dentists from doing so.
Align believes that these recent pandemic-related policies should be the start of additional integration of dentists to vaccinate against other diseases. For example, Align said, augmenting the role of the dental profession in routine immunization of oral health-related diseases such as the human papillomavirus would increase society’s access to future immunizations. Such steps would establish a more robust vaccine program by expanding access at a community level through trusted and competent dentists, Align said.