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GENEVA, Switzerland: Like other oral health professionals, dentists are front-line workers who provide an essential healthcare service. Accordingly, many countries have included dentists in priority vaccination groups. But what about allowing dentists to administer SARS-CoV-2 vaccines? A recent survey conducted by FDI World Dental Federation revealed that only one-third of the responding countries permitted vaccine administration by dentists. In light of the results, FDI has urged more countries to enable dentists to administer the vaccines.
Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are considered crucial by many as they could potentially help relax certain control measures that are in place to help slow down the spread of the virus. The US Food and Drug Administration has already granted emergency use authorisation to three vaccines: those developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna and, just recently, Janssen. In Europe, besides the BioNTech and Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, a vaccine from AstraZeneca has been recently been accepted as safe and effective by the European Commission. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 262 vaccines either in preclinical or clinical development, and FDI recently stated that, by late January 2021, approximately 100 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses had been administered in over 50 countries.
Vulnerable populations, including the elderly and at-risk groups such as healthcare workers, are among the first to receive the vaccine. Dentists have regular interactions with patients about their oral and overall health and have received extensive training in the medical field, which is why FDI believes that they are well positioned to support the national COVID-19 vaccination programmes. However, the survey showed that many member countries do not share this opinion.
The survey included 57 member national dental associations from all over the world and was facilitated by FDI’s COVID-19 Task Team. It revealed that nearly two-thirds of the responding countries had not granted dentists permission to administer SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as part of national vaccine roll-out strategies. European countries that do not permit dentists to administer the vaccine include Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia and Russia.
According to FDI, l’Ordre National des Chirurgiens-Dentistes (National College of Dental Surgeons) in France has urged the French government to permit dentists to distribute the vaccines, but without success. Discussions are also taking place in Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, Kenya, Hong Kong and Germany, FDI noted.
“Oral health is a fundamental component of overall health and well-being and oral healthcare is an essential public service,” Dr Gerhard Konrad Seeberger, president of FDI World Dental Federation, said in a press release. “Efforts should be made to enable dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines when possible within national legislation and regulations, and with minimal disruption to oral healthcare services,” he continued.
According to the survey results, the countries that have granted vaccine administration authorisation to the profession include Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Serbia, Slovenia and the UK. In the US, approximately 20 states currently permit dentists to administer SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. FDI noted that some of the aforementioned countries have not previously allowed dentists to administer vaccines, or at least not the influenza vaccine.
Besides vaccine administration by dentists, the survey also examined the prioritisation of dentists in SARS-CoV-2 vaccine roll-out programmes. According to the findings, 53% of the responding countries said that dentists would be included in priority vaccination groups, 12% said that they would not, and 18% responded that the vaccination programme and priority groups were still pending. Countries that did not include dentists in the first phase of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine roll-out include Cambodia, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Thailand.