‘Nothing against pharmacists, but…’

dentist's hands with implements

Dentists are asking why Australians can “walk into a chemist” and be vaccinated against flu, but not get the same service provided by a dentist

Dialogue around a potential vaccine for COVID-19 has opened up a discussion about how dentists can also provide vaccination for flu and HPV, says one stakeholder group, a spokesperson for which says pharmacies compare negatively to dental surgeries.

To give all Australians who want it access to a COVID vaccine should one prove successful, the vaccination network will need to be expanded, says the Australasian Academy of Dento Facial Aesthetics.

Director Dr Myles Holt wrote in The Canberra Times that a survey of members – who include dentists trained in both dental and cosmetic procedures – showed 85% felt they should be able to provide immunisation services, and 92% said they were willing to undergo the relevant training.

“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?” he asked, suggesting that some people see their dentist more frequently than any other health professional.

Speaking to Perth Live’s Oliver Peterson, he said that dentists are accessible and regularly use needles, in both dentistry and in services such as administering Botox injections.

“Really, if you can walk into somewhere like Chemist Warehouse and get this done, you would think you could get it done from a highly trained dentist,” he told Mr Peterson.

“When you consider your local pharmacy, nothing against pharmacists, but it certainly doesn’t have the same kind of hospital grade standard infection control that is regulated in a dental clinic.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia have both spoken out in recent weeks about the importance of allowing trained pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine if and when it becomes available.

Anthony Tassone, president of the Victorian state branch of the Pharmacy Guild, told the AJP that vaccination services at the dentist would be a matter for that profession’s regulatory board to consider, but queried some of Dr Holt’s assertions.

“It’s not up to other health professions to finger-point and declare that their colleagues aren’t capable or competent to perform a health service, like the rocks that have been hurled at pharmacists by some of our doctor colleagues representing peak medical associations over the journey as pharmacists move more towards practising to our full scope,” he said. 

“I’ll leave it to the doctors’ groups to impose their views on other health professionals what they should or shouldn’t do through the prism of how they feel patients should access care.”

Mr Tassone said it was “highly questionable” that, as Dr Holt suggested, patients see their dentist more often or regularly than other health professionals.

“Community pharmacies have consistently been shown to be the most visited and accessible primary health care destination in Australia,” he said.

“Whether allowing dentists to provide vaccinations will translate into a meaningful increase in vaccination rates is unclear – but in saying that, if a health professional is deemed to have it within their scope of practice, is suitably trained and competent then this provides choice to the patient as to meet their health needs.

“When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, we will need as many trained immuniser hands on deck as possible to help deliver this essential broad public health initiative to get the coverage we need to sufficiently protect the community.

“Without wanting to be too facetious – I don’t want another reason for my children to not want to see the dentist!”

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