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.
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.
Its important people understand that were 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. Weve
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. Its not causing
the severe illness weve seen with other flus, but its
decidedly more transmissible.
Reference Source: Dentalproductsreport.com
September 28, 2009