Visalia dentist hopes to put dent in Delta variant's spread by offering vaccine

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Visalia dentist Dr. Richard Barnes plans to give his first COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Patients with special needs will be his first priority, but he plans to expand the service to others in short order.

Less than 40% of Tulare County residents are fully vaccinated.

"Dentists are very good at giving injections and it is an easy way to coordinate an appointment, get your teeth cleaned, get vaccinated," Barnes said.

Barnes picked up his first batch of the Moderna vaccine last Monday.

In addition to completing the required training and paperwork, he needed to purchase a portable fridge to transport it and another fridge to store it, along with high-tech temperature gauges.

He'll administer it in his surgery center.

"It's an additional resource, it's another way for people to be able to get vaccinated," Tulare County public Health Emergency Manager Annette Burgos said. "You know, somebody that might be just going in to get a cleaning or something like that that might have been on the fence."

With just ten doses on hand, Barnes realizes he's starting small.

But he knows he can make a difference, because his patients trust him.

Plus, by being vaccinated himself, he can personally vouch for its safety and effectiveness.

"All the dentists in California, 94% (are) vaccinated, the last time those numbers came out," Barnes said. "It's a pretty impressive amount of vaccinated dentists. With this Delta variant being so contagious, it's a really good time to get vaccinated."

Dr. Barnes says dentists are also well equipped to deal with any patient that experiences a vaccine side effect.

He adds that he will be ready to help with COVID-19 booster shots when the time comes.

Dentists interested in joining California's vaccination program can click here.

Tulare County Public Health can also answer any questions about starting the enrollment process.
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