Vaccination is a significant element of combating diseases because it helps to build immunity before the infection starts to spread. Recently, COVID-19 vaccines are being manufactured and distributed, leading to optimism about the future reopening of the world.
The pandemic created many challenges for health workers and institutions worldwide, leading to different responses and reactions in a bid to curtail the spread.
With the suspension of most routine and non-emergency dental and health care services in affected countries, there is now an urgent need for organized health care and vaccinations to be delivered by trained professionals with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Dental professionals already have a significant role to play in preventing infection transmission, and now it may be necessary for them to aid in the distribution of vaccines. The time has come for them to pick up syringes and to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccines promptly.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, health practitioners, including dentists, have been called upon to volunteer in the vaccination program. This has brought about mixed reactions because while many believe that dentists are capable of administering vaccines as health practitioners, others believe that dentists do not have the required qualifications and experience.
Are Dentists Qualified To Administer Vaccines?
Dentists have the required skills to administer vaccines. Incorporating them into inoculation programs will help widen the government's reach across the country, particularly to those living in areas distant from other professional health services.
Oral health care professionals have training in administering injections of various medications in the arm, sedating patients and drawing blood with intravenous tubes during emergency procedures. Therefore, people should not object to receiving vaccines from dentists, whether at a private clinic or a general vaccine distribution center. Dental organizations are collaborating with federal and state legislators to ensure that oral health professionals have an equal opportunity to contribute their expertise during public health emergencies.
The non-profit organization, the Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO), led an advocacy campaign in 2020 to demand the safe reopening of dental offices, emergency relief for dental professionals and the provision of routine dental visits for patients during the pandemic.
As the statistics reveal that dentists administer more injections than other practitioners in the medical field, they have the necessary skills. Every year, a considerable number of patients consult a dentist without visiting a medical services provider.
In 2017, over 31.1 million US citizens received medical attention from a dentist without visiting their physician. Furthermore, a 2016 study reveals that about 9% of Americans do this annually. Therefore, many dentists can effectively administer vaccines and healthcare since they frequently deal with patients who do not visit their physicians regularly.
In the past, dentists have played an essential role in delivering vaccines for diseases like Human Papillomavirus (HPV), leading to an increased healthy population. Also, some states in America permitted dentists to administer vaccines during the swine flu pandemic, which helped the country respond better. The legislators in Oregon, Illinois and Minnesota approved bills that allow dental practitioners to administer vaccines.
Over 50% of US states have enlisted dentists to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to hasten the process. More so, federal law permits licensed dentists in the US to vaccinate the public, irrespective of any state laws that may prevent them from carrying out such activity.
These facts indicate that permitting dentists to administer vaccines could positively impact the delivery of vaccines. Excluding dentists from vaccination programs will only prolong the crisis.
Is There A Legal Or Moral Obligation To Volunteer To Give Vaccinations?
We believe that dentists have a moral and legal duty to support vaccines' distribution during emergency situations. Although many dentists own their private clinics, they should also seek ways to assist humanity when possible.
While it is essential that dental professionals provide routine care, giving a tiny bit of their time could go a long way in promptly administering vaccines and helping to speed the return to normal, everyday life for millions of Americans. Global health emergencies limit freedom and affect livelihoods in unimaginable ways.
The world has a population of over 7.5 billion individuals, and every one of them is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way.
So, if dentists can support other medical practitioners by volunteering to administer vaccines, they can significantly impact the fight against this global health challenge. This act could also help free up frontline workers to deliver care where it is needed the most. With the rate that a disease can spread during epidemics or pandemics being so fast, dentists' support in distributing vaccines may be vital in saving lives.
In such scenarios, the health sector needs urgent help and having enough qualified volunteers could make a big difference as vaccination centers need reliable hands to meet demand. To administer some vaccines — like the COVID-19 vaccine — dentists may need to do some additional training and certification.
This retraining requirement may seem unacceptable or come as a surprise to many dental practitioners as they believe that they have the required skills and experience to administer all vaccines. However, the training is not difficult, and it is possible to complete within a few hours.
Digitalization has also made it possible for dentists to take most of this instruction from the comfort of their homes or offices through e-learning portals. Although volunteering dentists need certification to deliver vaccines, their position as licensed healthcare providers eases the process.
As every medical practitioner, including dentists, takes the Hippocratic Oath, they promise to abide by their profession's principles and ethics and render service to humanity. This commitment means that they have to do everything in their power to ensure that a patient's life becomes better.
Therefore, when they get a chance to do that, even outside of their primary field of practice, they should take it. It is a known fact that many dental practitioners are business owners, meaning that time is valuable. However, sustaining human life is more important.