Dentists, med students can give COVID-19 vaccines in Va.

In Virginia, dentists will be among those eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccines after Gov. Ralph Northam signed new legislation into law that expands the eligibility of health care workers who can administer vaccines during the pandemic.

The law will expand the pool of those who can administer the coronavirus vaccine to dentists, medical students and other clinicians, giving the state additional assistance with vaccine distribution.

Dr. Norm Oliver, the Virginia Department of Health’s deputy commissioner for population health, said training vaccinators takes “just a few hours.”

Some of that training will break existing practices that are usual for most vaccinations but could damage the coronavirus vaccine.

“The Pfizer vaccine, for example, is so finnicky,” Oliver said. “Most of us would pick up a cold vile and shake it before drawing it up into the syringe. If you do that, you just wiped out 11 doses. But it doesn’t take long to learn.”

Many dentists have also pushed to administer the vaccine within their own practices, but Dr. Oliver said that possibility is unlikely in the near future because most dental practices lack the storage capability.

“Both vaccines require special handling. The Pfizer (requires) -80 C. The Moderna is a little more friendly but it still requires -20 C,” Oliver said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also requires vaccine sites to have special measurement tools that can prove the facility can adequately store the vaccine for long periods of time.

Interested dental and other health care clinics can sign up to become vaccination sites using the Virginia Immunization Information System. Sites must also apply with the CDC.

Above all, Oliver said the extreme scarcity of the vaccine is also making it difficult to get the vaccine to all health care providers.

Virginia has administered nearly 1.4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine as of Tuesday evening, according to VDH data.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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