In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, David Cheng, director of inpatient pharmacy, prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Los Angeles. Credit: Jae C. Hong / AP

Maine dentists are seeking approval from the state to be able to assist healthcare providers administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

While nurses, pharmacists and doctors have started administering the first round of COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers in Maine, the scope of vaccination in coming months will require additional hands on deck.

The state plans to ask paramedics to help administer the vaccine to ideally inoculate most of Maine’s 1.3 million people. Adding dentists to the list could mean adding more than 700 vaccinators to the workforce, the Portland Press Herald reported.

On Dec. 8, the Maine Dental Association sent a letter to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to offer vaccination services. The Maine Dental Hygienists Association is also planning to send a letter offering help, according to the newspaper.

Angela Westhoff, executive director of the Maine Dental Association, told the Press Herald that an executive order from Gov. Janet Mills could temporarily allow dentists to give vaccinations because immunization is not part of a dentist’s license.

Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long told the newspaper decisions about vaccination programs could not be made until the state finds out how many vaccines Maine will be receiving and when.

On Tuesday, the state’s largest health care system administered about 150 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to frontline health care workers who work with patients in COVID-19 units in some of Maine’s largest hospitals such as Maine Medical Center in Portland and Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford.

Finding doctors and nurses to administer vaccines is the biggest vaccination challenge MaineHealth is facing. The health care system has been recruiting retired doctors and nurses for vaccine clinics for weeks.

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