OPINION

How dentists can help boost Australia's vaccination rates and fight COVID

How dentists can help boost Australia's vaccination rates and fight COVID

Every year millions of Australians get flu jabs and, all going well, many of us will be lining up to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus in the near future.

It's going to be a mammoth task to ensure everyone who wants to be vaccinated is able to. At the same time, we need to ensure vaccination rates for other diseases continue to remain high.

To meet the challenge, Australia needs to urgently expand delivery of its vaccination services.

In parts of the United States, dentists are permitted to vaccinate patients against diseases such as influenza and human papilloma virus, but not here.

Why is it that a patient can walk into a chemist and get a flu jab in Australia, but cannot receive the same service from their dentist?

It makes perfect sense for dentists in Australia to vaccinate and there is also strong support for such a move.

Our organisation represents more than 5000 dentists around Australia who are trained in both dental and cosmetic procedures.

When we asked them how they felt about being allowed to provide immunisation services to their patients, 85 per cent said they should be able.

Furthermore, 92 per cent said they were willing to undergo the necessary vaccination training.

Our members see their patients regularly, have widespread medicinal training and know how to carefully administer injections into the mouths of adults and children - an area far more sensitive than an arm.

They adhere to high levels of hygiene and infection control and they also routinely wear masks.

For patients, there's the convenience factor - if you can get vaccinated at a dental clinic, you don't have to make a separate appointment and travel to a different location.

Our survey also found 97 per cent of our members believe they should be able to have a conversation with their patients about vaccinations, while 84 per cent say they have previously discussed immunisation with patients.

COVID-19 has demonstrated to many of us the importance of vaccinations and I think most patients would welcome a friendly reminder about their annual flu jab or other shot, regardless of whether it's coming from their GP or dentist.

We're urging health authorities and those in government to let us vaccinate and we're asking others in our profession and patients to back us up.

Dr Myles Holt is the director of the Australasian Academy of Dento Facial Aesthetics.