Thursday, January 7, 2021

ADA Advocates, CDC Confirms: Dentists Are in Phase 1a for COVID-19 Vaccinations


As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues across the country, there is good news for the dental community: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that dental personnel—including dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental students—are among the health care workers who should get access to vaccines in Phase 1a of distribution.  

The CDC has developed a playbook to guide state and local jurisdictions in implementing COVID-19 vaccine plans. The initial recommendation indicated that health care workers are to be prioritized in the first phase of vaccine distribution. However, that recommendation did not specifically note that dental personnel were included in this group.

After rigorous advocacy by the American Dental Association and in response to a letter signed by the ADA and 27 other groups, the CDC clarified its recommendation on December 28: Dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental students are categorized as health care personnel. Per the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, whose recommendations have informed the vaccine playbook, health care personnel are to be offered the vaccine in Phase 1a.

What this means for the ADA and state/local dental societies

This is a major win for our Association at all levels of the tripartite. Last fall, as federal and independent agencies developed a system for equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the ADA advocated for dentists to be given priority access to a vaccine during Phase 1a.

Although the CDC has outlined its recommendation, final authority on COVID-19 vaccine distribution rests with individual states. At a state level, your dental society can now use the CDC’s clarification to actively advocate that dentists should be prioritized for vaccination. For example, the South Carolina Dental Association used the CDC’s clarification to move dentists in that state from Phase 1b to 1a. Please keep in mind that each state government’s approach to vaccination is different, but know that your state dental society is working hard to help you.

What this means for you

The vaccine rollout varies by state, and often, within each state, county-by-county; depending on their location, dentists may still be prioritized in various tiers and subgroups. If dentists in your state are not prioritized in Phase 1a, are prioritized in Phases 1b or 1c, or are not categorized at all, I advise you to stay connected to your state society and state legislators for updates.

Rest assured: The ADA as well as your state and local dental societies are bringing your concerns to lawmakers and health departments.

In the meantime, our Association continues to provide information and resources, including the following:

An interactive COVID-19 Vaccine Regulations for Dentists map, which helps dentists determine when they can be vaccinated and whether they can administer vaccines in their state

The updated COVID-19 vaccination fact sheet

New FAQ sheets for both practice owners and employees on employment-related matters relative to COVID-19 vaccines

Be sure to visit and click the link at the top titled “Vaccination” for regular updates.

You might remember that I received my first vaccine dose a few weeks back (Vaccinations for health care personnel in Arizona—including some hospital-based dentists and dental team members—began last month). I received my second dose today. Our Association is working to ensure that, soon, all dentists and dental team members will get the same opportunity if they have not already.

Dentistry’s role in helping to end this pandemic is essential, and the vast majority of dentists agree: 84 percent of dentists believe that it is extremely important or very important to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

So get vaccinated when you can and encourage patients to roll up their sleeves when the time comes.

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