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LONDON, UK: The UK has become the first country in the world to approve a clinically tested COVID-19 vaccine after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine is set to be rolled out from next week onwards, and elderly people and NHS staff are to be prioritised—although details on how dental professionals, for example, fit into this plan are yet to be finalised.
The UK government announced that it has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to be 95% effective in Phase III clinical trials. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that the government’s decision “follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness”.
The spokesperson added: “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will shortly publish its final advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable. The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
“We would hope that [dental teams] are classified for early receipt of the vaccine along with other essential health care workers”
— Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the OHF
Dr Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association (BDA), told Dental Tribune International that while "a rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines could be a gamechanger", the BDA was waiting for further clarification regarding the exact position of dentists in this rollout.
“Government advisors have recommended that all health professionals should be near the front of the queue,” he said. "However, we have been concerned that dentists—in both NHS and private settings—will not be given priority. We’ve seen this in England, where NHS contractors have been excluded from the free flu vaccination programme.”
"Given volunteers are being sought from across the workforce to deliver the vaccine, we need to avoid a surreal situation where dentists administering the vaccine are likely to be ineligible to receive it. Based on early contact with officials we are increasingly confident dentists are now in the mix for vaccines, alongside fellow primary care providers,” Crouch added.
Dr Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, commented: “Approval of vaccines is obviously extremely good news with the potential of allowing life to come back to normal. It is not yet clear where dental care teams will fall in the hierarchy of vaccine delivery. As one of the professions most hit by the early stages of the pandemic and struggling to operate normally, we would hope that they are classified for early receipt of the vaccine along with other essential health care workers.”