Most dentists are vaccinated as mandates kick in
A recent survey of practicing dentists conducted by the California Dental Association shows that 94 percent of surveyed dentists in the state are vaccinated against COVID-19. The online survey was conducted May 26 to June 8 jointly by CDA and the California Department of Public Health.
This indicates that confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines is much higher among practicing dentists in California than it is among adults nationwide.
The findings from the CDA mirror nationwide results reported by the American Dental Association. As of June 2021, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute, 93.4 percent of dentists surveyed reported having received at least one vaccine dose, and 89.8 percent reported they were fully vaccinated. The rates for hygienists are lower. As of late July, 72.7 percent of surveyed dental hygienists were fully vaccinated, and 78.2 percent had received at least one dose.
According to the CDA, dental offices in California should now be complying with a state public health order of July 26 that requires all health care workers to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing. The state order mandates weekly testing for unvaccinated dentists and dental staff. Employees who are exempt from the vaccination mandate for qualifying medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs will still need to be tested weekly.
Dental offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles counties will soon be required to comply with local public health orders that mandate vaccination. Weekly testing will no longer be an option for dental professionals in those regions unless the employee is legally exempt from vaccination.
Other cities and counties, as well as private employers, may implement vaccination mandates in the coming weeks and months, especially following the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the CDA.
Of the 700 dentists who participated in CDA’s survey, 92 percent said they got the vaccine as soon as it was available. Eighty-one percent said they plan to get a booster shot every time it is recommended.
Protecting one’s own health, the health of one’s family and friends and the health of patients were dentists’ top three motivating reasons for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“As essential health care workers, dentists were among the first in California to be vaccinated against COVID-19, behind front-line workers,” said CDA President Judee Tippett-Whyte, DDS. “Dentists’ high vaccination rate ― 94 percent ― plus the stringent infection-control protocols that dental offices follow should give patients confidence that they can safely go to the dentist and resume their routine oral health care.”
According to the CDA, dentistry already has an outstanding record with infection-control practices long required by Cal/OSHA, the Dental Board of California and other governing bodies to keep patients and staff safe.
Dental offices should be ready to address patients’ questions and concerns about their safety and may want to assure patients in advance of their appointments that the dental office follows rigorous infection-control protocols, the CDA said.
(Sources: California Dental Association and American Dental Association)