Flu season begins: In California, dentists can provide flu, COVID vaccines

Some cities and counties mandate vaccination for dental office staff

August 31, 2023
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Quick Summary:
The CDC recommends that most individuals in the U.S. receive their flu vaccination in September or October. Some cities and counties in California mandate that workers in dental offices receive the flu vaccine. A regularly updated CDA resource summarizes and links to these local health department orders. CDA also reminds dentists that they are authorized to administer flu and COVID-19 vaccines to individuals ages 3 and older in the office once they complete specific training. A C.E.-eligible course from CDA provides that training.

This article was updated on 10/06/23 to include cities and counties that have issued vaccination orders since the article's original publication date.

Flu season in the U.S. typically begins in September and can spike as late as February or as early as November, as occurred in 2022. Consistent with its advice ahead of most annual flu cycles, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals receive their flu vaccination in September or October. 

Some cities and counties in California mandate that certain health care workers receive the flu vaccine. As of Oct. 6, local public health department orders that mandate flu vaccination and include dental practices are:

  • Alameda County
  • Berkeley (city)
  • Madera County
  • Pasadena (city)
  • San Joaquin County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • Santa Clara County
  • Yolo County

Placer County's order differs by requiring workers in dental offers to either be vaccinated or wear a face mask in all patient care areas and be reassigned tasks as appropriate.

Dentists in these cities and counties can access the details of their respective flu vaccination order via CDA’s resource, Local Public Health Department Orders Related to COVID-19, Flu. CDA’s regulatory compliance experts regularly review the resource and keep it up to date; however, cities and counties revise their orders periodically, including in response to community outbreaks, and dentist employers should familiarize themselves with local ordinances that apply to them. 

Additionally, although California no longer mandates COVID-19 vaccination statewide for health care workers, cities and counties can continue to enforce local COVID-19 vaccination orders. These are also listed in CDA’s resource and as of Oct. 6 include the cities of Pasadena and San Francisco plus San Luis Obispo County but could change in response to local infection rates. 

For employers in cities and counties that do not mandate vaccination for health care workers, encouraging employees to get vaccinated may be preferable to mandating vaccination, but both federal and state law generally permit private employers to mandate vaccination as long as they consider qualifying exemptions, as a California appeals court recently confirmed.  

Dentists can educate patients on vaccine safety, effectiveness 

Dentists have a daily opportunity to educate patients on the importance of protecting themselves, their family members and their community against respiratory viruses by getting vaccinated.

Resources in CDA’s Vaccine Confidence Toolkit, such as a displayable CDC flyer and links to fact sheets and Q&As, can assist dentists with these conversations. Patients can also be directed to the California Department of Public Health’s “My Turn” website to book a vaccination appointment or find a walk-in clinic for the flu or COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC explains that most people can get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. 

Dentists are authorized to administer flu and COVID vaccines in the office

California dental practices can consider implementing an in-office vaccination program. Under CDA-sponsored legislation that was signed into law and took effect in fall of 2021, California-licensed dentists can provide flu and COVID-19 vaccines to individuals ages 3 and older if the vaccines have been approved or authorized by the FDA. 

Before dentists can administer the vaccines, they must first complete specific training.

CDA’s C.E.-eligible course “Dental Immunization Practice Management,” developed in partnership with the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, provides the information dentists need to implement a vaccine administration program in their practice. The course also satisfies the training required to provide the flu vaccine.

Dentists who wish to provide the COVID-19 vaccines must complete additional training via one CDC-hosted training course consisting of three training modules. 

California law specifies that these trainings should count toward a dentist’s required C.E.

Dentists can also register for the CDPH-hosted webinar “What’s New with Flu, RSV, and COVID-19” from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, or watch for future trainings. 

CDA resources cited in this article

Dental Immunization Practice Management (C.E. course)

Local Public Health Department Orders Related to COVID-19, Flu

Vaccine Confidence Toolkit

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