Dentists want greater vaccine priority

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BOSTON (SHNS) – Delta Dental of Massachusetts is pushing Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to dentists and their staff members.

The much-anticipated vaccine has been made available to COVID-facing health care workers and first responders so far, but Delta Dental said that dentists should be prioritized for vaccination because they cannot realistically practice social distancing or mask-wearing when working in a patient’s mouth.

“Dentists are an essential part of our health care community. They play a pivotal role in keeping people healthy throughout this crisis and beyond. During this pandemic, dentists have implemented unprecedented safety measures so that they could return to work and continue to provide oral health care services. Despite this vigilance, dentists and their staff are under continual threat of contracting the virus given the high-risk of exposure to aerosols,” President and CEO Dennis Leonard wrote.

Dentists, dental students and dental hygienists are part of the first of three phases of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Massachusetts and fall just behind home-based health care workers in the state’s order of priority.

Dentists are expected to be able to receive the vaccine by the end of February. Leonard urged the administration to “provide more clarity and ensure that dentists begin receiving the vaccine immediately.”

He also pointed out that many dentists have already agreed to help the state get the vaccine into people’s arms by administering it to patients, and that working with dentists will help Massachusetts get the vaccine to more people sooner.

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