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Vaccine updates: State calls for expansion of current vaccine efforts to include dental staff and authorizes dentists to administer; dentists should complete training now

January 08, 2021 11263
Hand holding vial with a label that reads

Quick Summary:

A new recommendation from the state makes dentists and their staff eligible for the vaccine now, though timing still depends largely on each county. Dentists are urged to complete CDC training to administer the vaccine and to join CDA’s action alert to elevate dental teams’ access to the vaccine.

The landscape for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine has moved quickly this week, and there are still many unknowns and changes taking place. Here, find the latest information dentists need to know.

1. Dentists are now eligible to receive the vaccine per the state’s plan, and CDA is advocating for dentists and dental teams to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The California Department of Public Health issued a recommendation late Thursday to collapse the vaccination tiers in Phase 1a, making all health care professionals, including dental team staff, eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now. The recommendation, a result of CDA’s advocacy efforts, aims to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration and was made to local public health departments and providers.

2. The vaccine landscape varies widely county by county, and there are still many unknowns. Dentists will be contacted locally when more information is available, including how to get vaccinated.

While the recommendation from the state is a critical step in getting the vaccine distributed, how soon dentists and dental teams can be vaccinated depends on the logistics of each local county, which vary widely across the state. Dentists will be contacted by their local dental society or local health department as soon as more information is available on how to get vaccinated. At this time, there is no source for proactively monitoring or tracking this information, as each county’s situation is changing rapidly.

There are a number of factors that determine how quickly a local health department can vaccinate its health care professionals, including:

  • The number of vaccines allocated to each local health department, largely determined by the population of the region.
  • The number of health care professionals in the county.
  • Technology and staffing of the local health department. Technological capabilities determine how easy it is to reach out to dentists and their team members to sign them up for appointments. Many local health departments are also experiencing high staff turnover, which can delay finalizing vaccine plans.
  • Size of the local health department region, which determines how much logistical planning is required.
  • How many providers are eligible and available locally to administer the vaccine. As local health departments ramp up mass vaccination efforts, there will be opportunities for dentists who have completed the required training to help in these efforts.

3. Dentists should complete CDC training to be eligible to administer the vaccine.

CDA is urging dentists to complete the CDC training that will make them eligible to administer the vaccines under the public health emergency waiver that was granted earlier this week as a result of CDA’s advocacy efforts.

The DCA waiver establishes the necessary training dentists must complete through the CDC that is specific to vaccine administration, contraindications and adverse reactions. The required training, totaling approximately 1 hour, is free and self-paced. The courses are:

WB4460: Vaccine Training: General Overview of Immunization Best Practices for Healthcare Providers

WB4461: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know

WB4464: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine: What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know

Dentists who have already completed the modules and received their certificates of completion prior to CDPH’s updated training requirements do not need to retake them.

To obtain certificates of completion for each of the three modules, dentists will need to make an account at CDC’s Training and Continuing Education Online and follow the instructions. CDA’s troubleshooting guide also offers instructions on how to obtain a certificate of completion. Dentists should keep these certificates in their records similarly to how continuing education records are stored.

While these courses do not currently count for C.E., CDA continues to advocate for all CDC courses to qualify as C.E. hours and for qualification to be retroactive for those who have already completed the training.

Find additional information about completing the training in the COVID-19 Vaccine Administration FAQs.

4. Members can still support advocacy efforts to vaccinate dental teams as soon as possible.

CDA has issued an action alert urging members to send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Dept. of Public Health Director Dr. Aragón to prioritize dentistry’s access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the state’s evolving plans.  

While the state is moving away from tiers and focusing on all health care professionals in Phase 1a, CDA is advocating that dental team members be vaccinated as soon as possible given the type of unmasked patient interactions dentists and their staff engage in. And now that dentists have been approved to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in California, dentists and their staff must be vaccinated as soon as possible in order to join the front lines of the state's vaccination efforts.

5. Dentists aren’t likely to administer the vaccine in their offices; CDA is advocating for mass clinics that dentists can help support.

At this time, it is unlikely that dentists will administer vaccines from their dental offices due to storage requirements, outstanding billing questions, space requirements when monitoring patients after vaccine administration and lack of finalized vaccine administration plans in most counties. More likely, dentists who wish to participate will do so through efforts organized by government entities, local health systems and hospitals.  

Through a memo submitted to the Department of Public Health on January 4, CDA is advocating for a partnership with organized dentistry to explore and execute mass vaccination clinics throughout the state to safely administer vaccines. The memo encourages the state to leverage dental professionals to help iron out details on how mass vaccination sites could operate across the state. Large-scale CDA Cares clinics that have typically been held each year are a great example of how those clinics can be executed.

Members should review the COVID-19 Vaccine Administration FAQs for additional information on receiving training and how the administration process might work.

6. CDA’s advocacy efforts are completely focused on vaccine distribution and administration.

While CDA’s advocacy work has resulted in some critical changes so far, the organization continues to be wholly focused on vaccine efforts across the board, which also includes advocacy efforts to:

  • “Vaccinate the vaccinators.” As dentists complete the training to administer the vaccine, CDA is advocating to ensure those who vaccinate first receive the vaccine themselves.
  • Streamline the administrative processes for vaccine registration. In mid-December, CDA helped deliver a proposal by Henry Schein to CDPH and the governor’s office to serve as the central administrator for the registration and coordination of tracking callbacks to patients needing second doses for private practitioners and providers new to administering vaccines, such as dentists, who do not have health system administrators providing that support already.
  • Determine local health care jurisdiction logistics, working with the state oral health care director to conduct additional outreach to local health departments that have not responded to dental societies. CDA is looking closely at successful local health departments that are already vaccinating dentists, such as Berkeley, to determine how their process could be duplicated.
  • Amassing addresses for dental health professionals to help local health departments contact providers once vaccines are available in their region. CDA is also working with the state oral health director to determine next steps with those counties to clarify eligibility.
  • Seeking guidance on vaccine appointment staggering. CDA is looking to hospitals, clinics and CDPH for guidance on how to stagger vaccine appointments within the dental team to not affect patient care or workflow.
  • Vaccine mandates: The state and counties are not planning to issue a mandate for any COVID-19 vaccine so long as they only have an Emergency Use Authorization. CDA is creating a resource for dental employers to provide an overview and considerations for employer-issued vaccine mandates, including medical and religious exemptions.
  • Finally, CDA is still conducting regular outreach to the governor’s office and Legislature on the following issues: government messaging to encourage individuals to maintain preventive medical and dental care during shutdowns; equitable PPE allocation if distribution efforts start up again; equitable rapid test distribution efforts once technology advances and if distributed from the state stockpile; small business relief/practice stability; permanent testing licensure and vaccine scope expansion; and PPE/COVID-19 rapid testing/COVID-19 vaccine reimbursement. More details on these efforts will be provided to members when the Legislature reconvenes in mid-January.

As the vaccine landscape continues to rapidly evolve, CDA members should check the CDA Newsroom for regular updates and review the COVID-19 Vaccine Administration FAQs for additional information.