As the US looks for ways to speed the administration of Covid-19 vaccines, some states and providers are pulling in non-traditional vaccinators, including dentists, retirees and students, to aid in the process. 

On Monday, the California Department of Consumer Affairs approved an emergency waiver allowing dentists to administer Covid-19 vaccines to people ages 16 and up. The American Dental Association says dentists are cleared to give the vaccine in multiple states, including Oregon, where the first dentist in the US to administer a Covid-19 vaccine did so last month. 

Some health systems, like Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medicine, are tapping a well of newly trained nursing, medical and dental students to aid in the vaccination effort.

“We have been using some atypical vaccinators because we’re trying to prioritize keeping our licensed nurses at the bedside,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, professor of emergency medicine at UAB. “While we’re rolling out vaccine, we’re simultaneously dealing with a patient surge.” 

Some jurisdictions are looking to retired health care workers, who have the skills to administer vaccines and aren’t actively attending to Covid-19 patients.

“It’s a lot of retired physicians that are standing up to act as vaccinators,” New Jersey State Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli said during a news conference Wednesday.

Covid-19 vaccinators must be trained and authorized. 

Dr. William Reynolds, president of the American Optometric Association, says optometrists are an untapped resource in the vaccination effort. He said they are widely distributed and ready to jump in in smaller and rural communities that may need more manpower.

The association says 19 states allow optometrists to administer medicine via injection – and in California, they can administer flu and shingles vaccines – but they aren’t authorized to give the Covid-19 vaccine, specifically. 

“We want to be part of the solution,” said Reynolds.

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