Doctors oppose allowing dentists to administer vaccinations

Doctors oppose allowing dentists to administer vaccinations

SPRINGFIELD — Doctors don't like a proposal pending in the Illinois Senate that would allow dentists to administer flu shots and some other vaccinations.

The Illinois State Dental Society wants the change to make vaccinations more accessible, especially in rural areas where dentists can fill gaps for patients who don't have immunizations such as flu shots handy from clinics and drugstores, said its president, Dr. Barry Howell, an Urbana dentist.

The Illinois State Medical Society is objecting to the proposal, SB 1217, introduced by Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, partly on the basis that it could take patients out of a health care system doctors favor — one that encourages patients to have a "medical home" for coordinated and continuous care.

"Number one, it goes against where health care is going these days, with the team approach and the medical home," said Dr. William Werner, the medical society's president. "If you have dentists administering vaccinations in the office, how is that going into the patients' medical records?"

Howell said changes coming with the Affordable Care Act will coordinate online medical and dental records and close those communication loopholes soon, but Werner said he sees that change further down the road.

"The integrated medical records that everybody has been looking forward to is not there yet," he said.

Two other objections Werner expressed: Allowing dentists to administer vaccinations could mean lower quality scores for doctors because vaccinations given are in their ratings, and most dentists don't accept Medicare, which could leave older adults getting flu shots from dentists paying out of pocket.

Howell said patients would especially have benefitted from dentists being able to administer some vaccinations this year, when the flu season has been especially severe and only about 40 percent of Illinoisans get a flu shot.

"The reality of it is, dentists are very well trained," he said. "We give injections every day."

The proposal specifies dentists would need to complete appropriate training on how to address contraindications — situations where certain medical treatments should not be used because they may harm the patient — and adverse reactions before being able to administer vaccinations.

Howell, who was part of the group that put the proposal together, said dentists want to limit vaccinations they'd administer to such things as flu shots, Hepatisis B and human papillomavirus shots, and wouldn't be venturing into providing the basic immunizations babies and children receive on a schedule.

"That's something we absolutely ruled out right from the beginning. That's not our purpose," Howell said.

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