Ottawa

Dentists lobby to administer COVID-19 vaccines

As Ottawa residents flood online registration sites and pharmacy phone lines to gain access to COVID-19 vaccinations, some local dentists are wondering why their offers to join the effort have been ignored.

Dentists say they've offered to vaccinate patients but have heard nothing from city officials and OPH

As Ontario's vaccination rollout continues, a number of local dentists are wondering why they haven't been asked to help administer shots. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP Photo)

As Ottawa residents flood online registration sites and pharmacy phone lines to gain access to COVID-19 vaccinations, some local dentists are wondering why their offers to join the effort have been ignored.

Dr. Neena Sidhu said it's hard to watch hospitals be flooded with COVID-19 patients, knowing she and her colleagues have been offering to help for months now.

"I give injections 10 times a day. I am very comfortable, and more than willing to do what I can to get Ontario to some sense of normalcy sooner than later," said Sidhu, who owns Dentistry on Centrepointe in Nepean.

Having dentists administer vaccinations, Sidhu said, can free up health-care workers to help out in hospital intensive care units and emergency rooms.

"It boggles my mind why [Ottawa Public Health] has not mobilized dentists to deliver vaccines as of yet."

Ottawa dentist Dr. Neena Sidhu says she's 'very comfortable' giving injections and wants to help vaccinate people as quickly as possible. (Dentistry on Centrepointe)

The Ontario Dental Association (ODA) told CBC News it sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott in early February, to let them know dentists "are here to support public health units in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines."

That same month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told dentists — along with paramedics, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses — to all be ready to pitch in in the national vaccination effort.

That's happened next door in Manitoba, where dentists are administering vaccines from their offices, but not yet in Ontario.

Logistics need to be ironed out

"[It] seems we are bogged down in bureaucracy and turf wars here in Ontario," said Dr. Atul Joshi, a dentist at the St. Laurent Dental Centre.

According to the ODA, logistical considerations like test processing, vaccine storage and access to personal protective equipment need to be ironed out.  The province and the dental regulator also need to give permission.

"The province needs to get going on vaccinations 24/7 if we are to dig ourselves out of this public health emergency," said Dr. John Chu with Southpointe Dental in Barrhaven.

"We are trained to deal with all potential medical emergencies so I fail to understand why the ministry of health is not tapping into this resource."

In an email Friday afternoon, Ottawa Public Health told CBC News it has "sufficient immunization staffing available to support the current level of vaccine supply."

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