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Could acupuncturists help administer COVID-19 vaccines in Washington?

The CEO for the Washington State Hospital Association suggested acupuncturists could have the skills necessary to help get the population vaccinated for COVID-19.

TACOMA, Wash — Healthcare workers in Washington are optimistic following the approval of a new COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, making three vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna, now available. 

The state is getting ready to take in more doses of the vaccine. But some are wondering if the need arises, who could be qualified to administer the vaccines once they arrive? 

During a virtual press conference Monday, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said acupuncturists were high on the list of professionals with the necessary training and experience to fill out the pool of people who could give vaccinations.

“We spend a lot of time in the professional regulations… so we’ve been scoring them to see who handles needles and has blood-borne pathogen training,” Sauer said.

Stephanie Gianarelli, who’s been practicing acupuncture for over 20 years, said that is welcome news.

“I think it’s great!” Gianarelli said.

As the Director of Acupuncture Northwest and Associates, Gianarelli has clinics in Seattle and Tacoma, and spends her time helping her clients find different ways to improve their health.

Also thanks to recent changes in the law regarding what acupuncturists can do, her field provides its practitioners the right tools to jump in and help with vaccines.

Gianarelli trained for point injections in New Mexico, and about five years ago, that therapy became something Washington acupuncturists could get certified for. 

“So there’s a pool of acupuncturists who are point injection therapists, and they have up-to-date training, they do it all the time, and I think that’d be a great place to start,” Gianarelli said.

Sauer said, right now coronavirus vaccine providers throughout Washington state have had enough people to give the shots available, but that could change.

"We may not need them — we’ve had a lot of retired staff come forward and want to work in vaccine clinics — but we’re just thinking about if the pool of volunteer vaccinators does dry up a bit, who else could be helpful?” Sauer said.

Gianarelli said just being included in a discussion like this shows a changing attitude among medical practitioners towards her profession.

“I think that we’re slowly being integrated into the medical community, and I think that’s great for both Western medicine and Eastern medicine.”

Gianarelli wants to help in the hopes of putting the national coronavirus crisis behind us.

“We’re in a place we’ve never been before. And it’s going to take all of us to work together to find a solution to get ourselves out of this, And if acupuncturists, who put needles in people all day can help, great, let’s all do it!”

RELATED: LIST: Mass COVID-19 vaccine sites in western Washington