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What practice owners need to know about implementing a COVID-19 vaccine policy in the dental office

January 19, 2021 3789

Quick Summary:

The EEOC issued guidance indicating that employers may encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations under certain circumstances. Rather than implementing mandates, CDA Practice Support is advising practice owners to focus on taking steps that encourage team members to get vaccinated.

As California ramps up its COVID-19 vaccine distribution to health care professionals, dental practice owners may be wondering if they are permitted to implement a vaccine policy for their dental team.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last December issued guidance indicating that employers may encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations, but policies must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If a practice owner chooses to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in the dental practice, exceptions must be made for employees who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability, medical complications, pregnancy or sincerely held religious beliefs.

In this case, practice owners must provide reasonable accommodations, such as allowing the employee to work remotely or take a leave of absence. Should an employee experience health complications after receiving the vaccine, this would likely be considered a workplace injury under workers’ compensation.

Focus on educating and encouraging employees to get vaccinated

Requiring employees to get vaccinated can lead to difficult decisions and possible legal implications.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. organizations say they intend to encourage, but not require, their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination, according to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Rather than implementing mandates, CDA Practice Support is advising practice owners to focus on taking steps that encourage team members to get vaccinated.

To motivate team members to get vaccinated, practice owners could:

  • Develop vaccination education campaigns
  • Make obtaining the vaccine as easy as possible for employees
  • Cover any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine
  • Provide a small incentive to employees who get vaccinated
  • Provide paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any potential side effects

All practices and programs concerning COVID-19 vaccines should be implemented fairly and consistently throughout the dental office. Practice owners should be mindful of not creating or allowing a hostile atmosphere that isolates employees who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated.

Practice owners can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about employee vaccinations, vaccine polices and employer mandates in the CDA Vaccine Toolkit.

Maintain best safety practices in the dental office

As the COVID-19 vaccine become more widely available, dental offices may be tempted to ease safety protocols. Not every employee or patient will choose to get vaccinated; therefore, practice owners should remind team members to maintain best infection control practices in the dental office.

A fully vaccinated staff in a dental office does not completely reduce the practice owner’s liability or obligations to maintain workplace safety standards.

Dental staff should continue to:

  • Screen patients for COVID-19 prior to providing treatment
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear adequate PPE
  • Wash hands often
  • Disinfect and sanitize frequently touched objects and surfaces

Practice owners should continue monitoring state and local developments regarding COVID-19 vaccine distributions. CDA will keep member dentists and their teams updated on the latest information in the COVID-19 Resource Center and CDA Newsroom.