The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement is urging state leaders to ensure that oral health providers are among the first wave of coronavirus vaccine recipients following a vote by a committee of medical and public health experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that healthcare workers, including dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants, and long-term care facility staff and residents be the first to receive vaccinations once approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
DentaQuest called the vote a signal to state officials who are developing vaccine distribution plans in advance of official CDC guidance.
“This recommendation reaffirms what we already know. Oral health is essential healthcare for all. We expect the CDC to approve the recommendation and urge states to adopt this guidance and include dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants in the first wave of vaccine recipients,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement.
“Many dental professionals, particularly those in public health settings like Federally Qualified Health Centers, stand ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines and should be included in state distribution strategies,” said Minter-Jordan.
In the early days of the pandemic, DentaQuest said, oral healthcare providers were among those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. As a result, dental practices across the country were asked to shut down earlier this year, leaving millions without access to critical healthcare services, DentaQuest continued.
But the dental community came together to develop responsive safety standards and new infection control protocols that allowed dental care settings to reopen and once again provide vital oral healthcare, DentaQuest said.
Oral healthcare is essential to overall health, and the pandemic has illustrated that in a very real way, said DentaQuest, which released a report that found a link between better preventive oral health and a reduced risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). VAP is a leading cause of death among critically ill patients and has posed a serious problem for those afflicted with COVID-19 who require mechanical ventilation, DentaQuest said.
Additionally, DentaQuest said, the oral health community is stepping up and stands ready to assist in the distribution and administration of coronavirus vaccines to the public once they are available.