The Nevada Dental Association announced this week that it is supporting legislation being proposed by state Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill, R-Carson City, that would enable local dentists to administer vaccines.
NDA has previously submitted testimony to the Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners urging state officials to allow licensed dental practitioners to administer vaccines in Nevada.
NDA leaders say the bill addresses the need for dentists to help the state during this ongoing pandemic by administering COVID-19 vaccines, while also acknowledging the ongoing need to improve Nevada’s overall vaccination rates and access to basic health care services.
In addition to allowing licensed dental practitioners to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, the bill also seeks to allow licensed dental practitioners to administer the seasonal influenza vaccine, providing another point of access for Nevadans seeking to get vaccinated, as well as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. About 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are related to the HPV virus, national studies show. Dental offices are the primary health care setting for oral cancer screenings, education and awareness, all of which could have a significant impact on the administration of the HPV vaccine.
O’Neill, who represents Assembly District 40, has discussed the bill with leaders of the NDA, including NDA President Dr. Mark Funke, DDS, a longtime local dentist based in Carson City.
“We need all hands on deck to combat COVID-19, and this bill will help get vaccinations out faster and to more people,” O’Neill said.
Funke agreed, saying NDA has reviewed O’Neill’s bill draft request and is encouraging state lawmakers to pass the bill during the 2021 Nevada Legislature that convenes Feb. 1.
“Dentists, like medical doctors, successfully deal with potential exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses every day when serving patients,” Funke said. “We care greatly for the health and well-being of our patients and we’re confident that allowing Nevada dentists to administer vaccines for common diseases and for COVID-19 will improve the overall health of the communities that we serve.”
Funke said the bill would allow all licensed dental practitioners to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. This will increase the public’s access to life-saving care in a safe, effective and convenient manner and help alleviate the burden on the local health care system, he added.
Other leading health care and related groups are also supporting the bill, including the Nevada Dental Hygienists Association (NDHA).
“The Nevada Dental Hygienists Association continues to support language that utilizes licensed dental providers to improve access to care, increase medical-dental integration, and ensures public safety,” said Lancette VanGuilder, legislative chair of the NDHA. “This bill creates language that not only addresses the current COVID-19 pandemic, but more importantly, prepares for a future of health care that includes public health outreach, collaboration and patient-centered care. The NDHA fully supports these efforts.”
Licensed dental practitioners include dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists, all of whom belong to a highly educated and a ready-made workforce that already routinely administers oral injections and are trained in pharmacology, anatomy, physiology and medical emergencies while maintaining CPR certifications and participating in continuing education.
Funke said nine other states currently allow dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine: Oregon, Maryland, Washington, Connecticut, Alabama, Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey. Legislation in each state stipulates that proper training must be completed before dentists can give such vaccines.
As history and especially this pandemic have shown, NDA leaders realize that vaccines are vital in the fight against deadly diseases. Such diseases include measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B and the flu. Despite the effectiveness of vaccines over many decades, millions of Americans choose not to get vaccinated each year. The need is even greater in Nevada, where vaccination rates traditionally rank among the lowest in the nation.
Additionally, the American Dental Association’s (ADA) House of Delegates previously passed a resolution that states that dentists have the requisite knowledge and skills to administer critical vaccines that prevent life- and health-threatening conditions and protect the life and health of patients and staff at the point of care.
About the Nevada Dental Association
The Nevada Dental Association is the voice and advocate for oral health care in Nevada. It promotes the highest standards of care for the public and inspires members to pursue professional excellence and personal fulfillment through education, leadership and communication. It preserves the integrity of the dental profession, strengthens the doctor-patient relationship and promotes the Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct of the American Dental Association. Visit www.NVDA.org.