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Vaccine allocation framework identifies dentists as essential

CDC, NIH urged to give dentists early access to COVID-19 vaccine

October 02, 2020

By David Burger

Washington — Dentists and dental hygienists are essential health care workers who should be afforded early access to a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a vaccine distribution framework released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine during an Oct. 2 webinar.

“We are thrilled that the National Academies has affirmed what we’ve long known,” said ADA President Chad P. Gehani and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin. “Dentistry is an essential health care service and dentists and their teams are essential health care workers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health asked the National Academies, through its Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus, to draft the framework to inform future decisions about how to allocate the initial supply of the vaccine.

The framework also includes recommendations for ensuring equity in distribution, administration and access to the vaccine, as well as ways to promote effective community engagement and strategies to promote vaccine acceptance.

Dr. O’Loughlin pleaded the case for dentistry at a National Academies panel Sept. 2., asserting that dentists are essential health care workers who should be afforded early access to a vaccine.

“There is little doubt that there will be a high demand for a safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine once one becomes available — and doses of the vaccine will likely have to be rationed until production can meet the demand,” Dr. O’Loughlin said.

“We are therefore pleased that the National Academies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are looking ahead to ensure the most vulnerable at-risk groups — including dentists and other essential health care workers, high-risk Latino and Black communities, and the medically compromised elderly — are allowed early access to the vaccine.”

Dr. O’Loughlin and ADA President Chad P. Gehani followed up her remarks with a Sept. 4 letter to the National Academies affirming that dentists should have early access to a vaccine.

“We applaud your thoughtful consideration of how to allocate the early supply of a safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine,” Drs. Gehani and O’Loughlin wrote. “Counting dentists and their teams among the essential health care workers who should receive Tier-1 access will reduce the occurrence of serious life-changing oral diseases, and possibly even save lives.”

The ADA Board of Trustees adopted an ad interim policy stating dentistry is essential health care July 27 to help guide advocacy for the dental profession during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Delegates will consider it as a resolution during its virtual meeting in October.