ADEA Applauds Senate Bill to Permanently Allow Qualified Students to Vaccinate

June 17, 2021—The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is hailing the introduction of a bill that would permanently allow qualified health professions students to administer vaccines during federally declared public health emergencies.

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The introduction on Thursday of the bipartisan Student Assisted Vaccination Effort (SAVE) Act comes more than one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced public health authorities to rethink the value and role of health care students—including those studying dentistry—in responding to such crises.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME), builds off the amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration announced by the White House on March 12, and permanently authorizes more than one million skilled dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary, physician assistant, optometry and other health professions students to administer COVID-19 vaccines with supervision.  

“This piece of legislation is a welcome development in recognizing the invaluable role that dental students can play in responding to public health emergencies,” said Karen West, D.M.D., M.P.H., ADEA President and CEO. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed students step up and serve their communities with compassion and expertise. Their talents and contributions should not go ignored once this particular crisis is over.”

The legislation follows a year during which Students Assist America (SAA), an interprofessional initiative of 12 health professions associations, including ADEA, advocated for allowing qualified students to help the U.S. health care workforce in times of crisis.

“The founding vision for Students Assist America is connected to the osteopathic philosophy of holistic wellness, and we invited the interprofessional health community to call on the unique knowledge and commitment of their students to help the country,” said Robert A. Cain, DO, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), which spearheaded SAS. “Permanently authorizing health professions students to vaccinate during emergencies as proposed by the SAVE Act will better protect our nation’s health and safety in the future. We were honored to work with Senators Kelly and Collins to shape this legislation.”

Enacting policies now that help the country prepare for future pandemics is of the utmost importance as the lack of a sufficient workforce hindered the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The SAVE Act would help establish consistent options for vaccinators across all states and territories that can be implemented immediately. Building a stronger national infrastructure to meet public health needs is critical, as it is not a question of if—but when—the next crisis occurs.

Since the year 2000, the world has experienced no fewer than five pandemics or novel viral outbreaks, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, swine flu (H1N1) in 2009 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012-2013. The Ebola outbreak then struck West Africa in 2014-2016, with additional cases reported through 2021. Over the past 18 months, COVID-19 has spread across the globe and as of June 15, the World Health Organization reports more than 175 million confirmed worldwide cases and more than 3,811,000 deaths.

About SAA

Students Assist America (SAA) is an interprofessional initiative of 12 associations, including ADEA, spearheaded by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Through SAA, future physicians, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, veterinarians, dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, public health experts, optometrists, pharmacists, psychologists and allied health professionals have joined together as an interdisciplinary safety net to ensure that the weight of the COVID-19 emergency does not crush the U.S. health care system and put Americans at further risk. The collaborative is now exploring how students can help address other public health needs related to the pandemic that include wellness and resilience in the face of the country’s collective trauma.

About ADEA: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 79 accredited U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 15,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®