The coronavirus vaccine rollout is pushing forward slowly but surely in Massachusetts, and dentists who treat open-mouthed, maskless patients every day are left wondering when their turn will come.
“If you think about what we do and how close we are to the mouth and the nose, yes, it is possible we should have been before others,” said Dr. MaryJane Hanlon, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society.
Dentists in Massachusetts are part of the first phase of coronavirus vaccine rollout, but fall after other groups such as first responders, long-term care residents and workers, shelters and prisons.
Just last week the Centers for Disease Control clarified that dentists are included in the initial recommendation for health care personnel to be among those offered the first doses.
But dentists in the Bay State still have not been given a clear plan or answer as to when their chance to be vaccinated may come.
In a Dec. 29 letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Hanlon said she recognizes the state is doing everything it can, but it “has not been forthcoming with additional details regarding when and where the dental team will receive the vaccine.”
Hanlon said fear and anxiety among her colleagues is growing as they wait for word on when the shots will come, adding that MDS will help its members get the vaccine as fast as possible when available.
Dr. Mike Mayr, a dentist at Harmony in the South End said even with excellent PPE and screening protocols, every day is a risk.
“If we don’t have this by March I would be shocked because I think we are definitely one of those higher risk categories. I hope they don’t overlook us,” Mayr said.
Dr. Janis Moriarty, a dentist with her own practice in Winchester and a MDS board member added, “We also do procedures that create aerosol that puts us at high risk so you never forget that.”
Mortiarty also serves on state’s Provider Advisory Committee to offer expertise and opinions on state and Department of Public Health plans.
MDS, which represents about 80% of the state’s dentists, has also offered to help with vaccine administration.
Hanlon said, “This is a no-brainer to us, we give more shots than anyone else.”
Both Moriarty and Mayr also said they wouldn’t hesitate to help out with vaccine administration efforts.
DPH guidance states dentists are authorized to vaccinate, but a health care practice must be eligible to receive vaccines by having the proper infrastructure including storage and vaccine reporting capacity.
Mayr said, “We want to keep our doors open for our patients and our staff and we hope that the quicker this vaccine is rolled out the quicker we will be able to get back to whatever the new normal is going to be.”