Federal declaration allows for dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines nationwide

Dr.+Jodi+Levy+is+a+dentist+and+OU+alumna+who+administers+COVID-19+vaccinations+on+a+volunteer+basis+in+Connecticut.+

Dr. Jodi Levy is a dentist and OU alumna who administers COVID-19 vaccinations on a volunteer basis in Connecticut.

Gabrielle Abdelmessih, Staff Reporter

On March 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acting secretary issued an amendment of an emergency declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to authorize dentists — among other healthcare providers — to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

This amendment to the federal emergency declaration means that more than 151,000 licensed dentists across the country are now allowed to vaccinate the public against COVID-19, regardless of state laws that prevented them in the past.

Prior to this declaration, 28 states allowed dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. States like Connecticut, Kentucky and Massachusetts began allowing dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations earlier in the pandemic, and continue to rank higher in terms of the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered to their state populations.

In Michigan, dentists were not allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccinations until the emergency declaration was amended. Statewide, the 7-day moving average for daily cases is the highest it has been since December, and more new cases are being reported in Michigan (relative to population size) each day than any other state, except New Jersey.

Dr. Jodi Levy, an Oakland University undergraduate alumna, is a dentist in Connecticut who administers COVID-19 vaccines in the state on a volunteer basis.

As a dentist, Dr. Levy has the experience of administering local oral-anesthesia via injections to patients on a daily basis, so administering a COVID-19 vaccine to an exposed arm is something dentists are more than capable of.

“I feel like I’m in my wheelhouse,” Levy said.

If patients are a bit apprehensive leading up to getting vaccinated, Dr. Levy will even incorporate a little dental humor into the process.

“When people start getting nervous about the needle, I will throw it out in a joke form [by saying] ‘Hey, I’m a dentist, so get this: this is the first time in my life people have voluntarily come to me and said, ‘give me a needle,” Levy said.

This reassurance in the form of humor helps comfort patients.

“Usually, they will start laughing, and we can sort things out by that point,” Levy said.  “Once they find out I’m a dentist, usually they’re like, ‘Oh, you give shots all the time.”

In order to be authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, Levy participated in the state-mandated training program, which requires healthcare professionals to complete an approved didactic training program, demonstrate hands-on vaccination skills with an approved evaluator and register as a vaccinator with the Connecticut Department of Health.

Levy has learned how to administer all three COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) that are authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Once she had completed her training and her registration was approved, Dr. Levy became a volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), took a statutorily required  “Loyalty Oath” and signed HIPAA forms.

“Now I get emails regularly with requests for deployments, so if it works with your schedule and you’re willing to drive— you just click available. Then, within two to three days, you find out if you’ve been approved or selected for that mission— and then you show up.” Dr. Levy said.

So far, Levy has administered vaccines in centers like senior clinics and high school gymnasiums. Often, she does this on her days off from working at her practice, taking time on the weekends to drive to different locations in the state and volunteer.

“It’s been amazing, but it’s also exhausting. By the end of the day, I have nothing left. You’re on from the moment you get there, to the moment you leave,” Levy said.

When asked why she felt the need to volunteer her time and administer vaccines, Levy said, “I felt the need to be a part of the solution, and when given that opportunity, I have chosen to sacrifice time with my family to do this. I want my kids to be proud looking back one day that their mom was able to and did help us get back to normal.”