B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after exclusion from provincial plan
VANCOUVER -- Dentists are the latest group to take issue with British Columbia's COVID-19 vaccination plan.
In a letter sent to Premier John Horgan Saturday, the BC Dental Association says it is "extremely disappointed" that dental professionals were not included in Phase 2 of the province's vaccine rollout.
According to documents released by the provincial government on Friday, Phase 2 of the plan is intended to take place in February and March and will be focused on high-risk populations, including seniors ages 80 and older who have not yet been vaccinated, Indigenous elders, and "vulnerable populations in select congregated settings."
Phase 2 also includes vaccinations for "hospital staff, community (general practitioners) and medical specialists not yet immunized."
It's this latter group that the dental association takes issue with in the letter. The association argues dentists should be included in Phase 2 "along with our medical colleagues."
"Dentistry is an essential service," the letter reads. "More importantly, dental care, including aerosol-generating dental procedures, are provided to patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment."
The association notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include dentists alongside doctors and medical specialists in their COVID-19 vaccine schedule. B.C. dentists also cite Ontario's vaccine plan, which includes dentists in stage two.
"B.C. dentists continue to do everything they can to ensure dental offices are safe for patients and staff," the association's letter reads. "Early access to vaccines will ensure continued access to urgent and emergency dental care."
The B.C. government announced its full immunization plan on Friday, prioritizing residents by age rather than occupation.
The BC Teachers Federation expressed disappointment with that decision, saying teachers had hoped there would be prioritization for frontline workers. At the same time, the union acknowledged that vaccine supply is beyond its control and that the most vulnerable "must be vaccinated first."
"Teachers are stressed, anxious, and even afraid," the federation said in a statement. "We do not have the layers of protection in our schools that exist in other environments. If teachers are not prioritized for a vaccine, this government must take immediate action to improve safety measures in our schools."
Among those safety measures are mask mandates, better physical distancing and improved ventilation in schools, the union said.
The full text of the BC Dental Association's letter is embedded below.