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ADA to HHS: Grant temporary liability protection to dentists who administer vaccines

Federal action would advance U.S. strategy for COVID-19 response, preparedness

February 10, 2021

By David Burger

The ADA is asking the federal government to grant temporary liability protection to dentists who administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Biden administration has determined there is an urgent need to expand the pool of available COVID-19 vaccinators to respond effectively to the pandemic,” wrote ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T O’Loughlin, D.M.D., to Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, M.D., acting assistant secretary for health of U.S. Health and Human Services. “Unfortunately, federal efforts to mobilize every qualified vaccinator have not taken advantage of a seemingly obvious resource: Dentistry.”

Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin wrote in the Feb. 11 letter, “We respectfully ask your office to issue guidance regarding civil liability protection for dentists who administer approved COVID-19 vaccines under the [Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act]. Doing so would achieve two aims of President Biden’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness: Safely and effectively ‘surge the health care workforce to support the vaccination effort’ and ‘create as many venues as needed for people to be vaccinated.’”

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act allows the Health and Human Services Secretary to issue a declaration in times of a public health emergency. A declaration provides 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. A declaration for dentistry would allow licensed dentists throughout the country to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of state laws that prohibit – or effectively prohibit – dentists from doing so.

Dentists already have the requisite knowledge and skills to administer vaccines and observe side effects, and many do so on a daily basis, the ADA leaders wrote.

“Dentists are well educated in human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology, and are trained to administer intra-oral local anesthesia,” they wrote. “It is arguably more difficult to administer an inferior alveolar nerve block inside the oral cavity than to vaccinate an exposed arm and handle any side effects.”

Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin said that prior to the pandemic, several states already allowed dentists to administer the seasonal influenza vaccine and at least 19 states have now enlisted dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccines. Another nine states and the District of Columbia are discussing similar measures.

The ADA leaders asked Dr. Collins to “consider also that about two-thirds of dental patients scheduled for a routine dental visit are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine from their dentist. That makes every dental encounter a vaccination opportunity — and a chance to shorten the line at other vaccination locations.”

The letter is consistent with three policies the 2020 House of Delegates adopted: Temporary Expansion of Scope During a Public Health Crisis (Resolution 20H-2020), Dentistry is Essential Health Care (Resolution 84H-2020), and Vaccine Administration by Dentists (Resolution 91H-2020).

In September 2020, the ADA and more than 20 other health care organizations asked then-President Donald Trump’s administration for the same liability protection.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers training on its website on how to give the vaccine, and dental professionals can visit ADA.org/virus for more information.

COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Training and Educational Resources is a compilation of educational resources and training for health care providers administering the COVID-19 vaccine. It includes information from vaccine manufacturers, the federal government, state government and non-governmental organizations.

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