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Why dental teams should continue infection control protocols after getting the COVID-19 vaccine

January 26, 2021 4136

Quick Summary:

CDA advises practice owners to remain vigilant with infection control protocols even after their staff has been vaccinated. A fully vaccinated staff in a dental office does not completely reduce the practice owner’s obligations to maintain workplace safety standards.

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, CDA Practice Support is receiving calls from members who are inquiring if they can ease infection control safety protocols in the dental office if their staff has received the vaccine.

As best practice, CDA advises practice owners to remain vigilant with infection control protocols even after their staff has been vaccinated. Not only are the risks of spreading the virus still prevalent, but a fully vaccinated staff in a dental office does not completely reduce the practice owner’s obligations to maintain workplace safety standards.

Here’s why the vaccine does not eliminate the need to continue taking COVID-19 safety precautions.

The vaccine does not guarantee immediate or complete immunity

Getting vaccinated is important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19; however, it will take time for the vaccine’s effectiveness to build.

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine analyzed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and found that protection doesn’t start until 12 days after the first shot and that it reaches 52% effectiveness a few weeks later. A week after the second dose, the effectiveness rate reaches 95%, according to the study.

Moderna reported a protection rate of 51% two weeks after the first shot and 94% two weeks after the second dose, according to its application for authorization.

It’s unclear if vaccinated people can still spread the virus

Researchers are still trying to figure out how the vaccine affects transmission. Not enough information is available at this time to determine if the vaccine will prevent someone from spreading the virus to other people, even if they don’t get sick themselves, according to the CDC.

This leaves the possibility that people who are vaccinated can be exposed to the coronavirus and become unknowing carriers.

CDC experts say that factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will determine if and when they will stop recommending that people continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

It takes time to achieve herd immunity

To date, more than 3.2 million people, or 1% of the U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post’s vaccine tracker; however, public health officials say at least 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity and stop the spread of the virus.

In California, 4.7% of the population has received their first dose, while only 0.9% have been fully vaccinated. Until the U.S. is able to achieve herd immunity, it’s important that everyone continues to take steps to protect each other.

While health experts learn more about how the vaccine affects transmission, 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.

CDA’s Stay the Course series offers tools and resources to support dental practices in following PPE protocols and infection control protocols to keep team members and patients safe.