HHS has amended the federal declaration allowing licensed dentists throughout the country to vaccinate the public against COVID-19, regardless of state laws that prevent dentists from doing so.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has amended 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.
Currently, 28 states allow 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.
“Dentists already have the requisite knowledge and skills to administer vaccines and observe side effects—and many do so on a daily basis,” wrote Daniel J. Klemmedson, DDS, MD, president of the American Dental Association (ADA), and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T O’Loughlin, DMD, in a February letter to HHS. “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 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 5 years as long as they were in good standing prior to the license becoming inactive, expired, or lapsed.