Massachusetts Dentist Vaccinating for COVID-19
SOUTHBOROUGH, MA — January 2, 2022 — On a recent Sunday afternoon, Dr. Rosie Wagner, a general dentist in Somerville, MA, opened her practice doors with a mission to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That day, she and several volunteers administered 125 second-dose vaccines to children ages five through 11.
In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services authorized dentists and dental students to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. This authorization led to the concept of dentists as vaccinators, an idea that Dr. Wagner brought to reality in her practice starting in October of this year.
"The idea works because dentists often create longstanding relationships with patients," shared Dr. Wagner. "As providers at a community level, we sometimes treat generations of families of varied ages and differing backgrounds. There is a level of trust and comfort we have with our patients. People also attend dental appointments more frequently than other medical visits, and the dental office is a quieter, more streamlined setting than many retail pharmacies or large vaccination sites. Several patients commented that they were unable to schedule an appointment at another location and had no other way of getting their vaccines before our office began offering them.," Dr. Wagner explained.
Taking the step to become a vaccinator is accessible because most dental offices have the infrastructure to easily take on the task: infection control practices, aseptic injection technique, recordkeeping, and handling materials according to manufacturer recommendations. Plus, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) offers free and straightforward online immunization training. To become immunizers, dentists are required to follow the same steps as medical providers:
- Register with the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS), the state's immunization database, and the Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccination Program (MCVP).
- Purchase a vaccine refrigerator and a thermometer.
- Use the MIIS system to order vaccines. The state provides all COVID-19 vaccines at no charge for those under 18. And vaccination fees are covered by submitting a short medical insurance form available through the dental office's e-claim service.
- Take the free 3.5-hour online training for administering the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts.
Since October, Dr. Wagner and her team have vaccinated more than 250 patients and community members. Vaccine clinics, of which she has held five in the last three months, are open to the entire community. On most days, she administers COVID-19 boosters and pediatric flu vaccines to whichever patients are scheduled for dental appointments that day. If extra doses are available, it is publicized through a text message chain sent out to people on the waitlist created by Dr. Wagner's team. To find out more about the availability of vaccines or upcoming community vaccination days, follow Dr. Wagner's practice, Smiles by Rosie, on Facebook @SmilesByRosie. You can also email her directly for more information at email@example.com. If you are a dentist interested in becoming a vaccinator, go to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for more information.
Dr. Rosie Wagner is a general dentist in Somerville with a practice focused on patients with dental anxiety. She serves on the MDS Foundation Board of Directors, Middlesex District Dental Society Executive Committee, and the Better Oral Health for Massachusetts Coalition (BOHMAC)
The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS), a professional association representing 5,000-plus member dentists and a statewide constituent of the American Dental Association, is dedicated to the professional development of its member dentists through initiatives in education, advocacy, the promotion of the highest professional standards, and championing oral health in the Commonwealth. For more information, visit massdental.org, and follow the MDS on Twitter @MassDental.