DENVER (KDVR) — When 11-year-old Prince Budathoki went to his biannual dental appointment at Denver Health Family Health Center in Montbello, he was also given his second dose of the HPV vaccine while he was sitting in the dental chair.

Dentists and hygienists are not able to give vaccines, but that center offers integrated care with both medical and dental services. So, a medical assistant can go to the dental office and give the shot.

This started as a pilot program during the pandemic when vaccination rates dropped. Hoping to improve vaccination rates, Denver Health providers started offering vaccines at dental visits and gave out 122 extra vaccines during a six-month period.

The program used a grant from Health Resources and Services Administration. The pilot was such a success at the Montbello location that Denver Health is now expanding it to its other dental offices soon.

“It’s going so well that actually Denver Health now, at most of their clinics, is starting to do this project as standard work,” Dr. Jessica Jack, a Denver Health pediatrician and one of the leads on the project, said.

She added that after turning 9 years old, some kids will see their dentist more than their doctor. 

“So, they’ll see their dentist every six months, whereas they only see their doctor maybe yearly. So, it’s a great opportunity to identify children who are overdue for vaccines at that time, and get them into the clinic, and vaccinated, rather than requiring extra appointments,” she said.

With the integrated systems, the computer flags when a young patient is due for their HPV vaccine, and staff can offer the vaccine to the family.

“The HPV vaccine is what will start the process, and then if the patient agrees, we’ll offer all the vaccines the patient is due for at the same time,” Jack said.