As medical professionals, we have an incredible opportunity right now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to make a significant difference in our communities and to demonstrate that we can do more than maintain healthy smiles.
With the pandemic still rattling the nation, the healthcare system is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to assist at a community level. I have chosen to answer the call by volunteering in my own community to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
About 55.2 million doses have been administered in the United States as of February 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with about 15 million people receiving both doses. That’s about 4.5% of the US population. If I can help in some small way to accelerate the effort to vaccinate in my community, I feel it is my obligation to do so.
Many forget that dentists are experts in giving injections. We administer them every day as part of our routine scope of practice. Our extensive training and experience uniquely qualify us to not only administer shots, but to offer intentional and specialized patient care as it relates to vaccinations.
I registered to volunteer through the New York State Dental Association, which created and maintains a database of members who are willing to participate. If you are interested in volunteering to administer the vaccine, I encourage you to lean on or reach out to your member associations and take advantage of the resources these organizations have to offer.
I also registered through the New York State Department of Health, which then put me in touch with a local branch of ServNY. Many states have a similar process set up. There are online resources available to ensure that those who are compelled to volunteer have the means by which to do so.
My volunteer efforts have proven to be quite positive. My first experience was at a local high school in Staten Island, New York. We were able to vaccinate a large number of patients, and to do so very quickly. The process from registration to exit ran extremely smoothly.
What impressed me most about my experience was the level of dedication I saw from my fellow volunteers. It was incredible to feel the comradery as we all worked toward common goals: to serve our community and combat the virus.
It is also our responsibility to educate our patients and encourage them to get vaccinated. We must eliminate skepticism of the vaccine by pointing to the science, safety, and efficacy, which we know to be true. We have established ourselves as trusted partners for our patients, an extension of their medical care teams. They look to us as experts, so it’s important to have these discussions.
Dentistry has given me so much, which compels me to give back in any way I can. This experience of helping my community in such an impactful way has been a privilege.
I am asking my fellow dentists nationwide to join me. I am also calling on members of the public to get involved. Volunteers are needed at every site to fill positions from administration to security and many roles in between. Answer the call. Let’s help banish this virus, together.
Dr. Ratner practices general dentistry in Staten Island, NY. He has served the profession on the national, state, and local levels for over 25 years. He is a former chair of both the ADA Council on Dental Practice and the New York State Dental Association Information Technology Committee. He currently serves as president of the New York State Dental Association. He lectures nationally on integrating technology into dental practice and dental regulatory compliance.