Confirmation was received by the Association over the weekend that dentists will be amongst those such as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to be prioritised for receipt of the Covid-19 vaccines.
A series of representations were made by the Irish Dental Association to state authorities at the highest level over the past ten days insisting that dentists should be recognised as a priority group for the programme of vaccinations to be rolled out in the new year.
We reminded the authorities that the report published by the Department of Health last week recognised that “frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles or who risk exposure to bodily fluids or aerosols and those providing services essential to the vaccination programme” should be prioritised in the Allocation Framework. Accordingly, we sought confirmation that dentists meet this criterion and that dentists would be prioritised for receipt of the vaccines accordingly.
We also advised the Department of Health that we have been contacted by a small number of members who wish to assist the state authorities with the dispensing of the Covid-19 vaccines. In addition, we said that the Association would be pleased to assist in disseminating any interest the Department may have in seeking dental volunteers in this regard.
It is expected the report by the High Level Vaccine Taskforce will recommend all healthcare workers, including GPs, nurses and pharmacists be considered in helping administer the vaccine programme, while reports suggest that recently retired qualified people could be re-employed. The rollout plan outlined in the report is expected to be discussed by Cabinet tomorrow.
The report was prepared by a high level task force chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, and it is expected that it will set out a national strategy for the procurement, distribution, and delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine, including the logistics of how the doses will be stored, transported and administered.
Securing volumes, managing delivery of the vaccines and the timing of regulatory approval will be key milestones, with no expectation that meaningful volumes of vaccine will be administered this year.
Residents aged over 65 in long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, frontline health care workers (including dentists), and people over 70 years of age would be among the first to receive the vaccine.
The rollout of the vaccine will follow approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The European regulator is due to complete a final review of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of December at the latest, which could see the first doses administered in Ireland in January.
The EMA may approve a second vaccine produced by Moderna in early January, after which it would also be administered in Ireland.
The vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna must be stored at super low temperatures of minus 80, and minus 20 degrees respectively, and the task force had to examine how these would be stored and transported.