Updated: January 22, 2021 05:04 PM
Created: January 22, 2021 03:13 PM
They’re considered Tier One health care workers, high priority candidates to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, but the Minnesota Dental Association told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS thousands of dental health care workers have not even been notified as to when and where they can receive their vaccinations.
Dental Association Executive Director, Carmelo Cinqueonce, told KSTP his organization sent a letter to the Minnesota Department of Health outlining their concerns as the state starts to expand the number of people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
“It is extremely frustrating because it seems dentists, and their support staff, have been overlooked in all of this,” said Cinqueonce. “There are thousands of dental health professionals who are at high risk every day, and yet they cannot, in some cases, even find out when they might possibly get the vaccination.”
Cinqueonce said, in his opinion, the biggest part of the problem lies with the decision by the Minnesota Department of Health to have all 87 Minnesota counties handle their own distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines and that has created inconsistencies within the rollout program.
“When you have 87 counties all doing things differently it creates, in our mind, some inequities and there is no clear plan,” said Cinqueonce. “Dentists and their staff need to get the vaccinations as soon as possible, but they cannot even get an answer as to how it’s going to work even though some dentists in certain counties have received their shots.”
Dr. Michael Perpich operates four dental clinics in the metro area and has 40 employees, and he told KSTP he has tried for weeks to get answers as to what he can do to get the vaccine for himself and those who work with his patients every day.
“All of us have been doing this since the pandemic started and we are at as much risk as anyone to contract the virus,” said Perpich. “My face shield, at the end of the day, looks like I drove down 494 in a snowstorm because it is covered with saliva and splatter from the aerosols.
Regarding vaccinations, the Minnesota Department of Health said in part, "There is extraordinary demand in Minnesota for vaccines and there is a crippling supply shortage. Millions of Minnesotans are seeking protection against COVID-19 and the federal government is currently sending Minnesota only about 60,000 doses per week. The dentists and millions of other Minnesotans who think this isn't going fast enough are right. There simply isn't enough vaccine for everyone right now."
There has been progress and we are still on track to complete vaccination for phase 1a in coming weeks. Many counties have already vaccinated dental professionals and several metro counties are scheduling at this time. Several agencies across the state are working on vaccine rollout and there has been considerable outreach to dental professionals via the Board of Dentistry and local public health agencies. Dental professionals who are having challenges with finding the vaccine can contact their local public health department or health care provider.
Our goal is to move vaccine from arrival in Minnesota into arms as quickly and safely as possible – whether we have a few thousand doses a week or more. Every shot in the arm of another Minnesotan puts us one step closer to crushing COVID-19 and meeting the goal of getting millions of Minnesotans vaccinated as quickly and as safely as possible."
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