A coalition of 17 health and oral health organizations has sent a letter to the Biden Administration and to 39 governors urging them to authorize 420,000 oral health professionals across the country to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to accelerate an end to the pandemic.
In its letter, the Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup asks the federal government to take certain actions to remove legal barriers that deter dental providers from choosing to participate as vaccinators where they may be allowed by some states.
Also, the letter calls on the governors of those states where dental providers currently are not allowed to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to include them as authorized vaccinators, thereby significantly increasing the number of authorized vaccinators in their state.
Currently, 26 states and territories allow dentists to administer COVID-19 tests, and 25 states allow them to administer the vaccine. Only 14 states allow dental hygienists to give the vaccine.
“The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our nation has been staggering,” the letter said. “This devastation has exposed long-standing health and social inequities across our country, including among Hispanic, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; residents of rural areas; and people with disabilities. These groups are disproportionately likely to face challenges in getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Oral health professionals, who have been significantly underused in response to this national emergency, are uniquely situated to ensure underserved communities are able to access the vaccine, the letter said. This workforce, including more than 200,000 licensed dentists and more than 220,000 licensed dental hygienists, is distributed across the country in every community.
Each year, almost 30 million Americans visit a dentist but not a physician. Oral health professionals have the necessary education and experience to serve as vaccinators, the coalition said. Authorizing them to administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines would enable them to become engaged in the national effort to end the pandemic and increase needed access points for vaccinating the population, the Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup said.
Oral health professionals also can serve as trusted sources of accurate information to promote distribution of the vaccine, the coalition said. They can be especially impactful in hard-to-reach areas and with people at the highest risk of experiencing the devastating impacts of the virus, the coalition added.
The Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup sent the letter two weeks after the United States marked 500,000 lives lost to the pandemic. Removing barriers would allow additional providers to join the effort to end the pandemic as well as save lives and set the stage for rebuilding the economy, the coalition said.
The Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup includes:
- The American Association of Dental Boards
- The American Dental Association
- The American Dental Hygienists Association
- The Arcora Foundation
- Asian Resources Inc
- Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
- The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
- Community Catalyst
- The Dental Trade Alliance
- The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement
- The Hispanic Dental Association
- The National Dental Association
- The National Rural Health Association
- The Oral Health Progress and Equity Network
- Project Accessible Oral Health
- The Santa Fe Group