Saskatchewan

Sask. dental hygienist says they could help administer COVID vaccine

Leanne Huvenaars, the past president of the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association, says hygienists in Saskatchewan are willing to help give the COVID vaccine and contact trace.

Other provinces looking to enlist help of wide range of health professionals

Leanne Huvenaars, the past president of the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association, says hygienists in the province are willing to help give the COVID vaccine. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

It may still be months before the general population begins getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

But when we do, will we have enough trained professionals to administer the vaccine?

More than 90,000 people a month will need to get a shot if the entire population of Saskatchewan is to get vaccinated by the end of the year.

Other provinces have announced they are expanding the pool of people who could administer the vaccine to include health professionals such as dentists, veterinarians and lab techs. 

Leanne Huvenaars, the past president of the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association, says hygienists in Saskatchewan are also willing to help out.

"In our profession we already can administer a local anesthetic, which is very site specific," Huvenaars told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski."We understand that there's additional training that would be required in order to give the vaccine, but you know, it's worth a conversation with the government and our associations of regulatory bodies to see if we can be a part of that [vaccine rollout]."

One dental hygienist makes her case for being near the top of the line on receiving the vaccine. And we'll also hear why she thinks her profession could help administer the vaccine too. Leanne Huvenaars is a dental hygienist in Tisdale, and the past President of the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association. For more on what should be considered when planning a vaccine rollout, we reached Dr. Ross Upshur, a physician and researcher with the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, who was raised in Regina. 18:26

Huvenaars, who is a hygienist in Tisdale, said they could also help out with contact tracing because they already deal with personal health information.

"There are many areas that are in our scope of practice that we feel that we could possibly help," she said, adding there are more than 30,000 hygienists across Canada. 

Huvenaars said from her understanding hygienists would need "45 minutes of learning online and then a half a day to a day of practical and physical presence to administer."

The idea raises more questions, like who would train them and where it could be done.

"I think there are a lot more questions that would need to be answered, but I think that it could be done if the government wanted it," Huvenaars said.

She said many hygienists would volunteer to help administer the vaccine.

"I think in our profession, a lot of hygienists are nurturing and caring people. That's why we go into the profession. I certainly would step up." 

Huvenaars isn't sure if the province is considering the idea, but said it is at least worth having a conversation.

She would also like to see dental hygienists be considered for getting the vaccine at an early stage.

"We certainly understand that doctors, nurses, long-term care patients and First Nations communities would certainly be ahead of us," she said. "But why would we not be included with other health care professionals, whether it be pharmacists or chiropractors or anybody else within that health profession? Dental hygienists are the highest risk profession as we sit in close confines with clients between 45 minutes and an hour and a half.

"We're disrupting bacteria. We're around disease. There's blood involved. So we're not sure where we fall, but we'd like to be considered in that group."

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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