Important COVID-19 resources
Support and key resources to manage COVID-19 cases, exposure in the dental office.
With several promising vaccines for the new coronavirus in various stages of testing, California is developing its own vaccination plan for the state’s population. The Pfizer vaccine is now under review by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval, and CDA is advocating to ensure dental team members receive priority access to any SARS-CoV-2 vaccine once it is approved for distribution.
Similar to the federal vaccine distribution plan, the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is a working draft that includes phases of distribution. The first phase includes health care personnel who are likely to treat patients who have COVID-19 or to have been exposed to the virus that causes it.
But because the plan currently gives local health departments deference in determining how to classify which essential workers fall into phase 1, dental offices and their staff could be overlooked by many city and county health departments and might not be inoculated until the second phase of distribution, which is intended to reach other essential workers not included in phase 1.
CDA is asking the state to revise its distribution plan to standardize the list of essential health care workers for the purpose of phase-1 distribution and to include oral health care providers on that list. CDA also asks that the state provide explicit guidance to local health departments to follow that list to avoid any potential unintended consequences of uneven vaccine distribution throughout the state.
“Due to the necessity to provide an array of aerosol-generating procedures, dental team members are considered by the CDPH to be in a very high-risk category for exposure to SARS-CoV-2,” CDA stated in a letter sent Nov. 20 to the California Department of Public Health.
The letter makes clear that dentistry is essential health care and that dental team members are essential health care workers:
“Delayed treatment of oral health care needs can cause cascading effects on other aspects of overall health. In order to continue providing safe and essential oral health care for Californians, dental team members should be explicitly included in the plans for distribution and administration of the state’s vaccine plan.”
Lack of clarity and alignment at the local level led to confusion earlier on in the pandemic, including for dentists and patients seeking care. Many local health departments would not grant access to initial distribution of personal protective equipment without receiving explicit guidance first from the CDPH and the state oral health director, for example.
CDA believes that standardizing the list of essential health care workers in phase 1 will help to avoid a repeat of that mistake, but more importantly, it will ensure that personnel in all dental care settings are provided with the essential protection and support needed to keep Californians healthy.
A copy of the letter to the CDPH was also sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan.
CDA will keep members informed of developments in the state’s vaccine distribution plan and how they will affect dentists.