LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As more people are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the need for health care workers to administer it grows. That ability has now been expanded to dental providers in several states including Kentucky.
In January, the Kentucky Board of Dentistry filed an emergency administrative regulation to allow dentists and dental hygienists to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Craig Miller, a professor with the University of Kentucky's College of Dentistry, says volunteers from the college have already given out more than 1,500 vaccines at the Kroger Field clinic since they started helping in mid-February.
“The Centers for Disease Control, they're highly supportive of having lots of vaccinators,” said Miller. “I've attended many seminars where individuals who promote the immunization of the public want dentists to be involved and we want to be involved.”
The regulation even includes dental students who can practice under a dentist's license. Shelby Oberst is a senior and was the first dental provider to administer a COVID-19 vaccine in Kentucky.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” she said. “All eyes were on me.”
Before volunteering, Oberst says they went through online and hands-on training. While dentistry is a specific focus within medicine, she says administering vaccines wasn't a difficult skill to add and she felt more than prepared.
“We are trained to handle medical emergencies in the dental office, so things like anaphylaxis or an adverse reaction to the vaccine can also happen with dental injections. So, we went into this with a strong skill set of how to manage when something went wrong,” said Oberst. “As far as the actual shot, we give shots every day in the mouth and that's way harder to see than an arm.”
Miller says not only does this benefit the public, but allowing dental providers to learn this skill helps them.
“They get to have interprofessional practice. They're working side by side possibly at a vaccination table, a nurse on one side of the table and a dentist or dental student on the other side, there's communication going on back and forth. The pharmacist is walking around communicating,” he said.
Miller says he sees the benefit of being able to administer other vaccines in the future.
According to the American Dental Association, at least 20 states allow dental providers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.