Dental professionals request early access to COVID-19 vaccine

January 14, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The first round of COVID-19 vaccines has been rolled out for healthcare workers, particularly those working in nursing homes, but one group of frontline providers says they feel left out.

The Ontario Dental Association (ODA) is calling on the provincial government to include dentists and their staff in the early rounds of vaccine recipients, as they’re in direct risk of contracting COVID-19 by the nature of the care they give.

“Our situation [as dentists] is a little bit more difficult because when we see patients we can’t physically distance ourselves. We are working in the mouth and that where the virus actually replicates,” said Orangeville dentist, Raj Khanuja.

He added that aerosol generating procedures, which could include a cavity filling or crown, also puts dentists, their staff, and patients at an added risk of contracting COVID-19.

As of press time, there have been zero outbreaks at dental offices in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region, but Khanuja says he feels very strongly that dentists and all formal healthcare professionals should be included in the early rounds of vaccination.

“It just makes sense, because we are right there in people’s face… we’re just increasing that risk if somebody is a carrier,” he noted.

For the duration of the pandemic, dentists haven’t just been deemed essential workers, but essential healthcare providers, which is an important distinction, according to Khanuja.

He says dentists have played a key role in keeping people with dental problems out of emergency rooms during the pandemic and they continue to do so.

Khanuja told the Citizen the Province should be focusing on immediately rolling out the vaccine to all healthcare sectors, which would provide wider protection against COVID-19 in the general population.

Going forward, he says he’ll be first in line to roll up his sleeve when the vaccine becomes available, not only to protect himself, but also his patients, and staff.

“We should be safe to keep others safe and at the same time, prevent the spread of the virus, especially if an outbreak happens in any dental clinic, it can affect a lot of people in one shot,” he noted.

Khanuja attributes the fact that there’s been no outbreaks in dentist offices in the region to their due diligence and longstanding history of utilizing infection prevention control measures.

“The dentists have always been at the forefront of sterilization and personal protective equipment, but there’s been just a few things that we’ve added to modify the office space,” he said.

Khanuja notes he and his staff follow public health guidelines and the appropriate upgrades have been made within his dental offices to promote safety.


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