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U.S. Pubic Health Officials Deputizing
Dentists To Administer H1N1 Vaccines

In hopes of stemming the spread of the virulent H1N1 swine flu strain this fall, Massachusetts public health officials recently took the unprecedented move of deputizing dentists, paramedics, and pharmacists as frontline administrators of both the seasonal and H1N1 flu strain inoculations.

Three-shot protocol

This action underscores the intensifying urgency of public health officials, hospitals, clinics, and primary physicians as they confront the task of mass vaccinating millions of Americans against not only the common flu but also against the virulent and deadly H1N1 swine flu strain.

“It’s important people understand that we’re not just talking about administering one flu shot, but rather three in total,” said Dr. David Samuels, President of the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS). “Since no one has ever received the swine flu shot, it requires two shots plus a third shot for protection against the standard flu strain.”

“If 25% of the population comes down with the swine flu that would be a health and economic disaster,” says Dr. David Samuels, President Massachusetts Dental Association.

The first swine flu shot and the seasonal flu shot can be administered in the same visit, but patients then have to return for the swine flu booster to be fully protected. “The thought was that the three-shot protocol would most likely overwhelm primary care physician offices,” said Dr. Samuels.

“Enlisting help from other service sectors for the swine flu vaccination will help relieve this pressure.” For dentists volunteering their services to administer the swine flu vaccinations, liability protection is provided by the Federal Public Readiness and Emergency Act of 2006 (PREP Act). However, at this time, the PREP Act does not cover liability for administering the seasonal flu shots, so dentists will be limited to administering the swine flu shot only.

Who gets the shot?

The problems of administering the swine flu vaccine are further complicated by the fact that swine vaccine supplies are limited and not everyone will be eligible to receive a shot. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has two lists, one for who should be first in line to receive the swine flu shot and the second for who should be first in line to get the seasonal flu shot.

Healthcare workers and pregnant women are on both lists; the elderly only on the seasonal flu list. Also on the list for the swine flu vaccine and of major concern are healthy young children, adults under the age of 50, and those with respiratory and cardiac conditions as well as those with chronic health problems such as diabetes who experienced the most severe cases of swine flu-related illness and deaths this spring. The five companies producing the swine flu vaccine are expected to begin delivery of the first doses this month with the bulk shipping in late October and November.

In Massachusetts the emergency regulation to enlist the help of pharmacists, EMT personnel, and dentists takes effect on September 14 but must go through a public hearing, which will be held in the very near future. The deputized personnel would be used to vaccinate people living in densely-populated urban areas where additional manpower is most needed. Approximately 1900 locations throughout the state have been identified to date but are subject to change said Dr. Samuels. The MDS established a blog to test the interest of dentists in volunteering their services for the newly passed initiative and the response was, as Dr. Samuels describes it, overwhelmingly positive.

How and where the vaccine would be administered is still unclear as dentists await word from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. MDS dentists already received disaster preparedness training, having worked with the Public Health Department in the years following September 11, 2001 to be on the ready in case shots had to be administered for a bio-terrorism attack. Because there are more dental offices than medical clinics and most are located in neighborhoods rather than being remote, the plan back then was to administer shots in the dental office.

However, the potential for liability issues makes Dr. Samuels believe that dentists would be dispatched to the state- identified 1900 locations. All such issues will need to be addressed before the MDS recommends participation of its membership.

Whether dentists are directly involved in the vaccination process or not, Dr. Samuels says practitioners should be proactive about advising patients on this serious health issue and urging them to get the vaccinated. Equally important is for all dental staff to get vaccinated not only to protect themselves but their patients.

As the flu season descends upon cities throughout the U.S., officials are watching and awaiting the first outbreaks. “We’ve had several outbreaks of H1N1 already at Boston University and other major universities,” said Dr. Samuels. “What we are seeing right now, which could change, is not as virulent a strain of H1N1 that we have been fearing. It’s not causing the severe illness we’ve seen with other flus, but it’s decidedly more transmissible.”


Reference Source: Dentalproductsreport.com
September 28, 2009

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