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Letters: Why not?

May 20, 2013

I read the article with some consternation concerning the Illinois State Medical Society opposing the measure to allow dentists to give flu shots ("Who Calls the Shots? Illinois Dentists Advocate to Administer Flu and Other Vaccines," April 1 ADA News). It is puzzling as to why they should do so unless it is fear of financial loss as it cannot be out of concern for patients.

Pharmacists, who have less training and education than dentists, are giving vaccinations at the local and big box pharmacies. Nurses administer flu shots at the local super stores and elsewhere without a physician present. All this notwithstanding, dentists are usually better equipped to provide emergency treatment in their offices than the pharmacy or super store, and in their military role may have been already involved with administering vaccinations of several types, and performed in a variety of trauma, triage, general medicine, surgery and public health capacities.

The ADA should be on the forefront of touting dentist capabilities well beyond "drilling and filling" and the relationship of oral and general health. Dentists are doctors after all. They have a unique role in total patient care that cannot be filled by any other health care professional. Yet they are underutilized in provision of overall health care and rarely considered part of the health care team.

Hundreds of thousands of flu vaccinations are given annually without statistically significant morbidity or mortality. If the ISMS' concern is danger from these vaccinations and patient safety, then they should oppose pharmacist or nurse vaccination booths. If that is not their concern, then why do they attempt to limit access to care? Especially when they are "unable to meet even the most pressing health care needs" of the state and "just over 40 percent of the state" receives a flu vaccination.

The telling question for the ISMS and their physicians is simply, "Do you personally administer the vaccine in your office?" If it is someone else other than the doctor personally giving the injection, and they have no problem with that person or pharmacists or nurses doing so, then they have no valid objection to trained dentists doing the same.

Charles M. King, D.M.D., J.D.
Trussville, Ala.