Oral health providers across the country could serve as a critical access point for additional booster shots required to ensure continued immunity against COVID-19, according to the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health.
Studies are currently underway in the United States and abroad to examine the efficacy of booster shots in bolstering protection against the virus, CareQuest said. Also, officials with the Biden administration and the CEO of Pfizer have indicated that booster shots likely will be necessary to continue protection against COVID-19.
According to CareQuest’s survey of nearly 400 oral health providers nationwide, 49% said they either already administer the COVID-19 vaccine or are interested in doing so.
“If we want to ensure equitable and comprehensive distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and potential booster shots, oral health professionals must be part of the solution,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of CareQuest.
“Dentists and hygienists have the trust of their patients and the training and capability to administer vaccines safely. According to our survey, dentists stand ready and willing to help, and we encourage states to include them as an essential part of their ongoing vaccination programs,” she said.
Annually, more than 19 million people visit the dentist but not a primary care physician or other medical professional, CareQuest said. Many dental professionals, especially those operating in community healthcare settings such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are well positioned to serve as public health access points for vaccinations, CareQuest said.
Dental providers in public health settings like FQHCs are 10 times more likely to be offering COVID-19 vaccines than providers in private practice, CareQuest said. As racial and ethnic disparities persist in vaccination rates among Black and Latino communities, increasing access points in public health settings is a critical way to reduce existing gaps, CareQuest said.