As the United States and its territories continue to refine their COVID-19 vaccination plans following the Food and Drug Administration’s December 11 authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine, many states have already begun allowing dentists to assist with vaccination efforts.
California was among the first states to approve an emergency waiver allowing dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines, closely followed by Washington and Oregon. Many states in New England have also allowed dentists to join the public health effort, and even some southern states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina now allow dentists to administer the vaccines.
As dentists, we are already trained to provide injections. As the California Dental Association said in a statement, the shots we are required to give are mostly in “objectively more complex areas of the mouth that commonly have gag reflexes, major blood vessels, nerves, and a moving tongue.”
But many states have yet to give dentists the green light. This has been very frustrating to the dental community, considering dentists administer injections far more often than our medical counterparts. Furthermore, according to the ADA, in 2017, more than 31.1 million people in the United States sought care from their dentist but not their physician, making dental visits a prime opportunity for vaccination.
Similar to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 when dentists in certain states were permitted to administer vaccinations, the novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the potential benefits of an expanded role for dentists in preventive healthcare. When pharmacists began administering flu vaccines after the American Pharmacists Association launched its training program for pharmacist-administered vaccinations in 1996, immunization rates increased as access to flu shots expanded greatly.
The Florida Dental Association has come together to formally ask Governor Ron DeSantis to issue an emergency order that would authorize dentists to administer coronavirus vaccines, noting every available resource needs to be deployed to save lives and mitigate suffering during the pandemic. And although professional organizations representing dentists and optometrists are now in talks with Florida officials to include dentists in the fight against the virus, the circumstances have yet to change.
To my colleagues, I think we should all join in support of this cause. Dentists in all 50 states and US territories should be allowed to join the healthcare provider workforce dedicated to battling the pandemic. As final authority rests with each state in prioritizing the population to receive the vaccine and in administering it, I ask that we all appeal to our governors and congressmen to make this important issue a reality, because it’s simply too late for us not to.
Dr. Josephs practices implant cosmetic and general dentistry with an emphasis on implants, veneers, and complex crown and bridge treatment in Palm Beach, Florida. He is on the staff at JFK Medical Center and is a faculty advisory board member at McGill University’s Faculty of Dentistry. He completed his residency at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Hospital and was published in the Journal of the ADA in October 2017. He also is a twice published author, writing Tooth Talk and More Tooth Talk. Learn more at palmbeachdentist.com.