Tales from the Frontlines: Interview with a COVID-19 Vaccine Volunteer
Interview with Dr. Jeffrey Lodl
Why did you feel it was important to volunteer as a vaccine administrator?
I learned that Governor Polis has expanded the Dental Practice Act in mid-January to allow dentists to administer the vaccine. I really felt very fortunate that I had already been able to receive my first dose [of the vaccine] as a dental provider in group 1b. Based on this, I believed it was really important to give back to the community since there is a need that as dentists we are now able to fill.
How did you find out about the opportunity?
I have been in contact with my local public health department in Jefferson County to source PPE. I let my contact there know that I was willing and able to help and had completed the necessary training if there was a need. I must have had lucky timing since the following week I received an email about an opportunity to serve the community on that Saturday, January 30 – which I jumped on.
Can you describe your experience that day?
I volunteered at a drive-up clinic hosted by Servicios de La Raza, an organization that provides a variety services to Latinx and under-served populations in Denver. While I was only there on Saturday, it was a 3-day event with a goal of administering 200 injections per day. We received training on logistics and paperwork necessary for each patient and then administered vaccines from approximately 9:00am – 3:00pm. Patients arrived by appointment only in about 15-minute intervals. Once patients completed their paperwork, we administered the vaccine and then the patients parked for observations for 15 minutes (30 if they had a history of allergies or reactions). The majority of patients I saw were over the age of 70 as well as a couple of healthcare workers. I was the only dentist volunteer there on Saturday. The media was also present and we had visits from Governor Polis, the Mexican Consulate, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sen. Julie Gonzalez.
Colorado has a goal of ensuring vaccine equity for all income levels, races and ethnic backgrounds. Why do you feel this is important and how was this event instrumental in working toward that goal?
The Hispanic population has been disproportionately affected by the virus and at the same time a low percentage of those eligible to receive the vaccine are getting it. Outreach and education to that community specifically as well as other underserved communities on the safety and efficacy of the available vaccine options is so important in order to improve patient outcomes and turn the tide of this pandemic. The event met their goal of vaccinating 600 individuals and with the news coverage and community leaders present hopefully it will inspire others to get vaccinated as well.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering but didn’t know where to start or was nervous?
Start by signing up as a volunteer and completing the training, that way you are ready if and when you get the call. I felt very supported and safe at the event. Volunteers were provided with ample PPE, it was an outdoor event and I had already received the first dose of my vaccine. As an administrator you are aiming for the deltoid muscle and you don’t have to worry about aspiration; in a lot of ways, it’s much simpler than what we are doing intra-orally on a daily basis. Any dentist should feel very comfortable doing it. It was a really fun day, and I would encourage everyone to get involved if they are able.
Governor Polis, along with many other state Governors, under emergency order expanded the practice act for dentists to be able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine under specific circumstances. What does this mean for the future of dentistry in Colorado?
While there are certainly many factors to take into account, I think it has the potential to do a lot of good for the community and overall public health since a lot of our patients see the dentist on a more regular basis than even a primary care provider. There are also a lot of challenges to consider in regard to the paperwork involved, tracking a patient’s vaccine records, entering them into electronic health records, storage, etc.
Dr. Jeffrey Lodl is a general dentist practicing in Arvada, CO. He is past president of the Metro Denver Dental Society and has served as a longtime Society volunteer. He is currently the CDA Trustee from MDDS. He also is president of the Colorado Dental Lifeline Network.