Health and social care workers should be granted priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine when available in the UK.
This is according to new advice put together by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
As a result, the British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed the report – and is calling for the inclusion of dental team members.
It argues that if a vaccine is authorised for use within the UK, there should be ‘no ambiguity’ over the status of dental professionals in both NHS and private settings.
The report read: ‘Frontline health and social care workers are at increased personal risk of exposure to infection with COVID-19. And of transmitting that infection to susceptible and vulnerable patients in health and social care settings.
‘It is also recognised that vaccination of frontline health and social care workers will help to maintain resilience in the NHS and for health and social care providers. The committee therefore consider health and social care workers a high priority for vaccination.’
Front of the queue
Dave Cottam, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, believes clarity is required as soon as possible.
‘It’s right that healthcare workers are put at the front of the queue for a future COVID vaccine,’ he said.
‘But there can be no repeat of the debacle over flu jabs and “key worker” status. Dentists – both NHS and private – are frontline health professionals. Together, with our teams, we need protection. So we can keep providing an essential service to the patients that need us.
‘The vaccine may still be in development, but clarity on access is needed now.’
Over the last six months, the government has failed to explicitly define the ‘key worker’ status of dental teams.
Consequently, issues arose over access to childcare during lockdown.
Additionally, there was confusion surrounding the free NHS flu jab scheme. The programme letter, which stated it is ‘more important than ever’ that workers are protected, was sent to NHS staff in England – including dentists.
But it was later confirmed that the free vaccine excludes dentists in England.
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