On March 11, the Department of Health and Human Services amended the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to expand the list of healthcare personnel who can administer COVID-19 vaccines to include dentists and dental students.
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) called the Biden Administration’s decision to allow dentists and qualified dental students to administer the COVID-19 vaccine a welcome and important step in winning the fight against the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, many states granted dentists the authority to administer the vaccine, and President Biden’s decision to expand that authority at the federal level underscores the crucial role that dentists play in safeguarding our nation’s health,” said Dr. Karen West, ADEA president and CEO.
The Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO) said it also applauds the decision to expand the group of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine to include dentists, who are exceptionally qualified to administer vaccines.
This decision will expand the vaccine distribution and reach even more people across the country, especially those living in health professional shortage areas, the ADSO said.
“Dentists are more than qualified, and their clinics are sufficiently suited to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the public,” said Andrew Smith, ADSO executive director.
“People should not be hesitant to receive a vaccine from a dentist, whether at a vaccine clinic or dentist’s office. Dentists regularly provide injections, and they will be properly trained to administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” Smith said.
In addition to nine “additional categories of qualified persons” who could administer the COVID-19 vaccine, the amendment included dental students, “with appropriate training in administering vaccines as determined by his or her school or training program and supervision by a currently practicing healthcare professional experienced in administering intramuscular injections.”
“It’s equally heartening to see a federal recognition of the pivotal role that dental students, with the proper training and under supervision, can play in this unprecedented vaccination effort,” said West.
The addition of dentists and dental students is part of an aggressive federal effort to expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots and hasten the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the United States population.
Biden outlined his plan in an address on March 11, a speech that came one year after the pandemic began. He said that life in the United States could return to some kind of normal by the Fourth of July, even though he urged Americans to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
“After this long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,” Biden said.
The federal recognition of dentists on the COVID-19 vaccination front comes in the wake of months of sustained advocacy by several health organizations, including ADEA, for the government to take full advantage of the medical expertise that dentists possess.
ADEA also is a member of Students Assist America, an interprofessional initiative of 11 associations that banded together to lobby state and federal leaders to give hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to help vaccinate the public.
West said the response of the dental community has been one of the silver linings during a challenging time for the nation.
“At the onset of the pandemic, our community was hit especially hard by the pandemic as both the practice of dentistry, and the education of students came to a temporary halt. But we didn’t break,” West said.
“Instead, we’ve supported our communities by delivering crucial healthcare, and we’ve redoubled our efforts to educate the next generation of oral health professionals by embracing innovation in how we teach. Along the way, we’ve amply demonstrated that dentists and oral health professionals are invaluable partners in an integrated healthcare team,” West said.
The ADSO also said that it has been diligently working with state and federal decisionmakers to ensure dental professionals are able to contribute their skills during this public health emergency. Over the past year, the ADSO said, it also has advocated for dental professionals to receive emergency relief funds, safely reopen dental practices, and provide safe and quality dental visits for patients during the pandemic.