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Washington — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is amending an emergency declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to authorize additional providers, including dentists and dental students, to vaccinate patients for COVID-19 nationwide, according to a March 11 announcement in the Federal Register.

 

To date, at least 28 states already enlist dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccines during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The federal declaration allows licensed dentists throughout the country to vaccinate the public against COVID-19, regardless of state laws that prevent dentists from doing so.

The Association sent a Feb. 11 letter to HHS on this issue and the ADA was also part of a September 2020 coalition letter asking for the same liability protection.

“Dentists already have the requisite knowledge and skills to administer vaccines and observe side effects — and many do so on a daily basis,” wrote ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T O’Loughlin, D.M.D., in the February letter. “Dentists are well educated in human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology, and are trained to administer intra-oral local anesthesia. It is arguably more difficult to administer an inferior alveolar nerve block inside the oral cavity than to vaccinate an exposed arm and manage any side effects.”

The White House said March 11 the administration will be expanding the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots to include dentists and other providers. And during his presidential address that night, President Joe Biden announced a goal to make “every adult in the U.S. eligible for vaccination no later than May 1.” He also vowed to increase the number of places Americans can get vaccinated, including increasing the total number of participating community health centers to 950, and plans to double the number of federally-run mass vaccination centers.

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, or PREP Act, allows the Health and Human Services Secretary to issue a declaration in a public health emergency. This declaration provides temporary immunity from tort liability claims (except willful misconduct) to individuals or organizations involved in the manufacture, distribution or dispensing of medical countermeasures, which may include vaccines. This declaration may be amended as circumstances warrant. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, a declaration was first issued in January 2020 by former HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

On March 11, Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran amended the declaration to designate additional health care professionals, including dentists and students, as “qualified persons” whom are authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Other qualified providers include midwives, paramedics, EMTs, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, podiatrists, optometrists and veterinarians. The amended declaration also includes retired or nonpracticing health care providers who have had active licenses or certifications within the last five years as long as they were in good standing prior to the license becoming inactive, expired or lapsed.

For information about COVID-19 vaccinations, the ADA has created a fact sheet for dentists and dental team members about the status and safety of COVID-19 vaccines. The ADA continues to monitor developments related to COVID-19 vaccine authorization and administration on behalf of the profession and public. Visit ADA.org/virus for the latest information.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts during COVID-19, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.