COVID-19 vaccination mandates for healthcare providers: 7 dentists weigh in

As healthcare companies nationwide mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees, dentists are split on whether mandates are needed, whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandated and how the mandates could affect morale and staffing.

Here, seven dentists discuss vaccination mandates:

Note: Responses have been lightly edited.

David Traynor, DDS. Beacon Dental (Dexter, Mich.): I do believe that all healthcare providers should be vaccinated. However, I think we need to remember that all these healthcare workers have been caring for patients for months before the protection of the vaccine was available.

I have had both Pfizer vaccines and received the booster last week. Most of my staff have also chosen to be vaccinated — but not all.

While I am encouraging them to receive the vaccine, I do not agree with mandates. I do not think that accomplishing the goal of vaccinating healthcare workers through force creates a positive work environment. There are already staffing issues, and either having upset staff that feel bullied into getting the vaccine, or having staff leave over this issue, is not helping anyone.

In general, I think science needs to do a better job of accessibility. In an age of short sound bites and social media where anyone can post an "opinion," we need to counteract this by putting more science and research in front of the public. Science research papers can be hard to read and even harder to understand, plus they are often hidden behind paywalls and subscriptions. We need social media science posters and influencers, scientists that can take important public health information and put it in easy-to understand and accessible places.

David Chei, DMD. Arlington (Texas) Dental Associates: I feel that the COVID-19 mandate is a positive development. Even if one may feel uneasy about getting vaccinated, and I really do understand this reluctance, scientific/medical evidence is overwhelming that it can and will save lives. Yes, I believe all healthcare providers should receive the COVID-19 vaccine since it will not only protect those providers who are vaccinated, [but] others that may come in contact with these providers.

David Donatelli, DDS. Highpoint Dental Medicine (Chalfont, Pa.): I do not believe in vaccine mandates. I believe every individual should make their decision on what is best for their health and well-being.

I do not think that all healthcare workers should be vaccinated.

Deric Ikuta, DDS. Ikuta Dental Health Center (Reedley, Calif.): I am in favor of vaccine mandates for COVID-19. There are at least six other vaccines mandated to go to public school, and many of those diseases are much less deadly than COVID-19. [The] safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine is equal or greater to those vaccines. Government mandates take the onus off employers. The issue with individual employers who mandate it is that the anti-vax employee has the chance to work next door in the same field, while a mandate makes them either change careers or take the vaccine.

I believe all healthcare providers should receive the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters except for [those with] medical and confirmed religious exemptions. Healthcare is a privilege, not a right. Majority of healthcare workers take a Hippocratic oath, or something similar for different fields. If you believe in "first, do no harm," you have to do everything you can to not spread disease, like getting vaccinated, wearing PPE and following all infectious disease mitigation measures.

Charles Schlesinger, DDS. Comfortable Dentistry 4U (Albuquerque, N.M.): I do believe that all healthcare providers should be vaccinated. Due to the close proximity of interaction between provider and patient, I believe there is not only a higher percentage of possibly coming in contact with an infected patient, but also a higher probability that an infected provider could pass along an infection to a patient. The vaccines have been proven safe, and it is our professional responsibility to be vaccinated just like we are for all other communicable diseases.

David Fishbaugh, DDS. North Point Pediatric Dentistry (South Bend, Ind.): Mandates are an infringement on personal liberties. I'm not anti-vax, but it should not be forced on anyone. No, [vaccinations] for healthcare providers should be voluntary.

Spencer Bloom, DDS. (Chicago): I feel everyone should be urged to comply with COVID-19 mandates, but not forced or punished if they choose not to comply. The same goes for healthcare providers. Until such time as healthcare providers have been identified as the source of problems, I think it behooves us to recognize that PPE is a two-way barrier … very little in and very little out. As long as PPE protects the wearers and protects those they are caring for, we don't have an actual problem. To get so bent out of shape over theoretical problems is not productive. We have nearly two years of pandemic experience. If I'm dead wrong, tell me, but I am unaware that healthcare workers are a known source of problems, so forcing vaccines on them at this point is without basis. It might sound logical, but still, it is without real reasons. Thus, the concept is using fake reasoning. BTW, I am fully vaccinated (Moderna), and I feel safer because of that. But I'm not in favor of forcing people to do what I chose to do.

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