British Columbia

B.C. dentists ask province to vaccinate them sooner than pandemic plan calls for

Citing the risk of aerosol-generating dental procedures on patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment, dentists in B.C. say they should be vaccinated against COVID-19 sooner than the province's plan calls for.

Dentists cite aerosol-generating dental procedures done on patients who cannot wear mask during treatment

Vancouver dentist Ken Phillips examines a patient with a broken tooth in his dental office in downtown Vancouver in May 2020. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Dentists in B.C. are asking the province to accelerate plans to vaccinate them against COVID-19.

The B.C. Dental Association has written a letter to Premier John Horgan saying it supports the vaccine rollout plan announced Friday, but that its members should be moved up the list.

The province plans to immunize more than four million people against COVID-19 by September, vaccinating the high-risk and most elderly populations by April, before reaching younger adults in the summer.

On Friday, the province broke down the vaccination plan into four phases. Those going first include residents, staff, and essential visitors at long-term care and assisted living residences; people waiting for long-term care; people in remote Indigenous communities and hospital workers caring for patients with COVID-19.

Phase 2, from February to March, includes seniors over 80; Indigenous seniors over 65, Indigenous elders; more health-care workers; vulnerable populations and nursing-home staff.

Dentists want to be included in this group rather than Phase 3, which includes members of the general public aged 60 to 79, and Phase 4 for those aged 18 to 59.

Patients can't wear masks during treatment

The association is "strongly urging the B.C. government to move dental professionals into Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout as the Government of Ontario and the American Centers for Disease Control have done," it said in a release.

The association argues that dental care is an essential service and that its workers "are the only health-care providers who provide aerosol-generating dental procedures to patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment."

Dentists in B.C. argue they are the only health-care providers who provide aerosol-generating dental procedures to patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

It said that by vaccinating dental workers sooner, it will ensure dental offices are safe for patients and staff and "ensure uninterrupted access to urgent and emergency dental treatment for our most vulnerable patients."

In announcing B.C.'s age-based plan Horgan said he has heard from many sectors, including teachers, first-responders and grocery store workers, who argue they should be a higher priority for the vaccine.

Horgan said that scientific research supports the province's decision to base its vaccine rollout on age, as it is the most dominant factor related to severe illness and death from the virus.

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