As researchers work toward developing a vaccine for COVID-19, the ADA says that dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants should be among those who receive it first.
Demand for a vaccine will be high and initial supplies will be limited, prompting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ask the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to develop a framework that will inform future decisions about how a vaccine would be allocated.
The National Academies’ Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus will study criteria for priorities in distribution, accounting for factors including population health disparities; risks presented by health status, occupation, or living conditions; and geographic distribution of active virus spread.
So far, the committee has said that dentists and dental hygienists should be in the first tier of those receiving early access to a safe and effective vaccine. The ADA thanked the committee for making this recommendation in a September 4 letter signed by president Chad P. Gehani, DDS, and executive director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, DMD, MPH.
“Dentistry is an essential health care service and dentists and their teams are essential health care workers,” they said in their letter. “We urge you to consider including dental assistants, as well, since they are also an integral part of their dental team.”
The letter affirmed dentistry’s role in treating pain and in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing, and treating life-changing and even life-threatening diseases such as diabetes and oral cancers. Delays in treatment can make the difference between a normal and healthy life and having a life-changing abnormality or possibly dying early.
Further, the letter noted that no COVID-19 cases have been attributed to contact between dental staff and patients, adding that dentists have implemented more safeguards than ever to prevent its spread. Yet 15% of the American public still doesn’t feel comfortable visiting the dentist without a medical breakthrough such as a vaccine, the ADA said.
“Knowing dentists and their teams have been vaccinated will help reassure those patients that it is safe to resume dental appointments and benefit from these essential health care services,” the letter said.
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