‘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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  1. disillusioned

    The more access the better, but how would this increase access?
    I didn’t even know dentists’ had botox and dermal filler clinics, and I don’t think their niche clientele are so disadvantaged as to not be able to access a pharmacy or medical clinic.

    It would be interesting to see their business model as they certainly won’t be able to compete in convenience or price. If the rationale behind it is to up-sell much more lucrative cosmetic procedures, it’s a bit strange as its not like someone would book in for a flu shot and then incidentally decide to get some botox while they’re at it. If the process was in reverse, the opportunity cost of providing immunisations would be significant, as vaccinations aren’t anywhere near as profitable compared to cosmetic procedures or standard dental work.

    • Paul Sapardanis

      A lot of pharmacies do vaccinations at or below cost as a marketing strategy for foot traffic. In a post pandemic retail world is this to continue or will pharmacy go back to its old model? Will basket size matter or will it be about a proper margin on the service being provided? If individual pharmacies are dumb enough they’ll continue doing what they’re doing

  2. kitty penfold

    I’m sure veterinarians and nurses could also be utilized.

  3. Won Jun Chung

    dentist have dental chair which can turn completely flat and they can monitor them carefully too I think they should allow to vaccinate

  4. Jarrod McMaugh

    The only way that vaccines work is if they are administered

    The reason pharmacists and our professional bodies promote pharmacists as vaccinators is to ensure that as many people as possible are providing vaccines (declaration: I work for PSA and volunteer with FIP in the area of vaccination training and policy change).

    It is completely appropriate for dentists to be accredited to provide vaccines as well.

    it’s just a shame that many media releases these days in the area of health are built in the following format: “We want something, let’s denigrate someone who already has what we want”

  5. George Papadopoulos

    What do dentists do that makes this within their scope of practice? Do they offer other vaccines? Do they engage in preventative medicine?

  6. PharmOwner

    Well played Anthony.
    If dentists are adequately trained and have the capacity to administer vaccines, then why not, if it increases patients access and improves vaccination rates. I’m not sure why they’d be interested in doing it from a financial point of view because to be competitive, they would not be able to charge as much as they do for their core dental services. As “disillusioned” quite rightly points out, a vaccination service would cost dentists, so they’d be performing the service “out of the goodness of their hearts”.

  7. Robert Broadbent

    As a pharmacist I can’t understand why this sort of question is even raised – Why compare what pharmacists do with what you do. If you want to do it, apply to the appropriate authorities for recognition – then do it!

  8. At least the views from the pharmacy groups are consistent.

    “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”

  9. Tim Hewitt

    That’s a laugh!!!.. when the dentists find out how little financial reward there is in vaccination they will lose interest very quickly..why would a dentist even bother??!!

  10. Dr D Khan

    Yeah honestly, let the dentists do the flu vaccinations. But like other members have pointed out, as long as they continue to make the service available, and not back track after they find out how little monetary value it is, espefcially after factoring the cost of the vaccine, cost of training and not to mention cost of the dentist’s wage (which is unfortunately a lot more than that of a pharmacist). They really ought to be suggesting it because they really care about disease prevention, otherwise risk becoming the laughing stock of the health industry.

  11. Peter Allen

    Accessible. Really?
    “ I’d love to drop everything but I’m fully booked with 30-minute appointments until Thursday fortnight.”

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