Biden Calls Dentists, Vets, and Med Students to Give COVID Vax

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To ramp up vaccination efforts across the country, the Biden administration is calling on dentists, nurses, medical students, nursing students, midwives, and even veterinarians to administer COVID-19 shots, according to a statement released by the White House Friday morning.

On Thursday, the administration also announced plans to increase the number of community health centers giving vaccines to 950.

“As a doctor, as a frontline worker myself, I am very excited to see that more of my healthcare colleagues now have a chance to further expand their participation in the response,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, director of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, during a press conference on Friday.

As hundreds more community health centers are added to the vaccine program, pharmacy locations delivering vaccines double, and the pool of eligible vaccinators widens, “we’re ensuring that equity remains at the center of our response,” she added.

During a public address on Thursday night that marked the pandemic’s 1-year anniversary, Biden directed all states, territories, and tribes to make every adult vaccine-eligible by May 1.

With eligibility expanding, vaccine supply increasing — Biden announced plans to purchase another 100 million doses from Johnson & Johnson this week — and with the number of sites where Americans can get a vaccine growing, there’s a clear need to also increase the number of people who can give the shots.

To achieve that goal, Biden directed the HHS Secretary to amend regulations under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP) to allow more healthcare personnel to give vaccinations.

According to the White House, the acting HHS Secretary has authorized new groups of professionals to “prescribe, dispense, and administer COVID-19 vaccines anywhere in the country.”

Those now eligible to be vaccinators include dentists, emergency medical technicians (both advanced and intermediate), midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, and veterinarians.

The amendment will authorize anyone in these categories who’s recently retired, along with pharmacists and pharmacy interns, to be vaccinators “if they were in good standing upon expiration of their license.”

Of note, the amendment also authorizes “medical students, nursing students, and students of the other eligible health care professions with proper training and professional supervision” to become vaccinators.

In conjunction with these actions, the administration launched its Online Vaccinator Portal to help healthcare professionals, as well as retirees and students, determine whether they are eligible to administer COVID vaccines. The website provides links to a volunteer management portal in all states for those wishing to volunteer.

HHS has begun outreach efforts to health professional associations and other stakeholders to publicize these new efforts to expand the pool of would-be vaccinators and raise awareness of volunteer opportunities.

The administration previously amended PREP regulations to authorize physicians and nurses whose license expired within the last 5 years and who were “in good standing” to administer COVID vaccines in any state or territory.

The White House, in its press announcement, also encouraged states to “further expand the categories of persons authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines … as authorized under the PREP Act.”

The American Dental Association (ADA) praised the president’s actions in an email: “Dentists are ideal candidates to assist with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines and this is a victory for the public.”

ADA officials had told HHS last month, “Dentists already have the requisite knowledge and skills to administer vaccines and observe side effects — and many do so on a daily basis.”

Twenty-eight states currently engage dentists as vaccinators, noted the ADA.

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    Shannon Firth has been reporting on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. Follow

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