Calif. shields dentists giving COVID-19 vaccines

By Brian Casey, editorial director

January 29, 2021 -- In a bid to ramp up sluggish rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has given dentists and other healthcare professionals protection from liability when administering COVID-19 vaccines.

On January 27, Newsom issued an executive order that extends liability protection to healthcare professionals licensed by the state who are participating in California's vaccination administration program. The order also directs professional regulatory boards under the state's Department of Consumer Affairs to prioritize investigations related to the diversion of vaccines and supplies.

California's move comes as states across the U.S. are trying to speed up how many COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. The state of Georgia, for example, issued a plan to enlist dentists as volunteers to administer COVID-19 vaccines at public sites. The order temporarily suspends requirements in the state's medical code for physician supervision of injections.

In California, only 4.7% of the state's population has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and only 0.9% has been fully vaccinated with both doses, according to data released on January 26 by the California Dental Association (CDA). In the U.S., only about 1% of the population -- or 3.2 million people -- has been fully vaccinated, the CDA estimated.

The executive order signed by Newsom notes that the government of California has already requested that healthcare professionals assist in vaccinating the state's population as quickly as possible. In addition, the state's government code "confers immunity from liability ... on [healthcare] professionals and providers who render services during a state of emergency at the express or implied request of state or local officials."

The order goes on to state that healthcare professionals who render services during an emergency will not be subject to discipline for performing their duties consistent with standards of care. The order then lists a variety of healthcare professionals -- including dentists, pharmacists, and various types of nurses -- who will be covered by liability protections specified by the state government code.

Finally, the order notes that when it comes to investigating issues involved in vaccine administration, state regulatory bodies for healthcare professionals should prioritize investigations into suspected diversion of COVID-19 vaccines and supplies for financial gain.

To clarify the order, the Dental Board of California on January 28 issued guidelines under which dentists can participate in COVID-19 vaccination programs. Dentists must complete a training program as specified on the website of the state Department of Public Health, as well as comply with state and federal reporting and record-keeping requirements.

Copyright © 2021

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