CDA: Dentists should stay vigilant after getting vaccine

By Brian Casey, DrBicuspid.com editorial director

January 27, 2021 -- The California Dental Association (CDA) is telling dentists in the state to stay vigilant about infection control procedures even after their staff has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination does not eliminate the obligations of dental practice owners to maintain workplace safety standards.

Despite its slow rollout, the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine has many business owners wondering how long it will take for their operations to return to normal. Dental practices are no different, and the CDA's practice support unit has been receiving calls from members asking whether they can dial back on the stringent infection control protocols they have adopted during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, not so fast, according to a January 26 guidance on the CDA's website. The guidance states that while getting vaccinated is an important step in preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it takes time for the vaccine to achieve full effectiveness.

For example, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that protection with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine didn't start until 12 days after the first administration, and the vaccine was only 52% effective several weeks later, the CDA noted. The vaccine did not achieve the full effectiveness of 95% until a week after the second dose was given.

Meanwhile, the other COVID-19 vaccine on the U.S. market, from Moderna, has been reported to have an effectiveness of 51% two weeks after the first administration and 94% two weeks after the second.

The CDA further explained that little research has been conducted into whether individuals can still transmit SARS-CoV-2 without knowing they have it and without experiencing symptoms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that it will take into account factors such as how many people have been vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in the community before ending its recommendations on mask-wearing and social distancing.

And the U.S. is a long way from achieving herd immunity, widely considered to be 70%. The CDA noted that only 1% of the U.S. population -- or 3.2 million people -- has been fully vaccinated. In California, 4.7% of the population has received the first dose of the vaccine, and only 0.9% has been fully vaccinated.

So until then, the CDA is recommending that dental practices continue their vigilance, in particular by taking the following steps:

  • Screening patients for COVID-19 prior to appointments
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Disinfecting and sanitizing objects and surfaces that have been touched

The CDA said it has a series of YouTube videos designed to help dental practices navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.


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