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Dental Hygienists Trained To Give Vaccines Being Turned Away As Volunteers

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A big part of getting COVID-19 cases to drop in the state is getting Utahns vaccinated. It’s been a big undertaking and, just recently, state officials made a plea to get trained professionals to volunteer in the effort.

The state’s coronavirus website lists those who are authorized after training to administer vaccines. On the list are dental hygienists, which is why Heather Crockett spent seven hours completing the necessary training. She wanted to help and said she’s passionate about the vaccine.

“There are hygienists in other states that are vaccinating,” Crockett told KSL-TV over Zoom.

After her training, she reached out to the Salt Lake County Health Department, only to be told they aren’t accepting hygienists.

“I received a couple of different emails from the Salt Lake County Health Department saying that actually dental hygienists are not currently authorized to be vaccinators in the effort,” Crocket said. “That really rubbed me the wrong way.”

Until late Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Health Department website still stated their biggest need in administering the vaccine was vaccinators. That sentence has since been removed. And a department spokesperson released this statement: “We greatly appreciate the enormous interest we’ve seen in volunteering to assist with the COVID response in Salt Lake County. We’ve had over 800 people apply to be volunteer vaccinators, and we’re now in the process of reviewing, training, and deploying these volunteers in the most efficient way to use their expertise.”

Right now, the state of Utah requires hygienists and some other health care professionals, like veterinarians, to be supervised to administer vaccines.

“We’ve invited hygienists to enroll in case we do have a need in the future, and we would love to use their skill and expertise in other areas of the response, but at this time it’s more efficient to use a vaccinator the state does not require be supervised,” SLCHD officials said.

While Crockett is relieved counties have enough volunteers, she said she wouldn’t have spent hours training to volunteer for nothing.

Salt Lake County, Davis County and Weber-Morgan health departments said they will use hygienists if they run low on other vaccinators. Utah County officials said they haven’t approved hygienists to vaccinate.

The Utah Dental Hygienist Association released this statement on the COVID-19 vaccination effort in Utah and how it pertains to dental hygienist volunteers:

“We are grateful to be part of the proactive community here in Utah. We are inspired by the medical professionals and other volunteers donating their time to make COVID-19 vaccination go as smoothly as possible in each county. It is so incredible to be part of such a willing community!

“Many Registered Dental Hygienists in Utah and across the country have taken the initiative to enroll and complete training in order to be of service in our communities and as needed. Dental is often an underutilized touchpoint in the healthcare system and we look forward to the opportunity to come alongside our medical colleagues to help end this pandemic. We are willing and able to volunteer in a vaccinator capacity when needed. Thank you to all who have already volunteered, and are currently volunteering to aid in this effort.

“Thanks to KSL’s Debbie Worthen for her work on this story to help clarify and effectively communicate between multiple parties.”

KSL 5 TV Live

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