The state Department of Consumer Affairs has approved a public health emergency waiver that will enable its 36,000 dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines to people age 16 and older.

This would most likely occur at hospital settings, clinics and vaccination sites that are expected to be set up to meet the demand for the vaccine.

During declared emergencies, such as the pandemic, every available resource must be deployed to save lives and mitigate suffering. Dentists and other untapped health care professionals have the potential to be invaluable to not only increase the health care worker surge capacity but also help immunize Californians as quickly as possible.

“Dentists are ready, willing and able to help administer COVID-19 vaccinations to the public,” said CDA President Judee Tippett-Whyte, DDS, and president of the California Dental  Association (CDA).

“We can help with surge capacity at clinics and vaccinations sites — wherever we’re needed to quickly administer vaccinations and save lives.”

Dentists are in a unique position to administer vaccines, CDA officials said because they receive extensive training in anatomy, pathology, pharmacology and autoimmune response as part of their dental education. Additionally, dentists are already trained to provide injections in objectively more complex areas of the mouth that commonly have gag reflexes, major blood vessels, nerves and a moving tongue.

Dentists already have the ability to practice outside of their traditional scope of practice during declared states of emergency under the implied or express direction of government entities.

The DCA waiver establishes the necessary training dentists must complete through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is specific to vaccine administration, contraindications and adverse reactions.