BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As COVID-19 vaccinations continue in Maryland and elsewhere, dentists feel like they’re being left behind because they don’t know when they will be able to get the shot.
A group of dental professionals started an online petition that has been gaining traction. Because they deal with people who have their mouths open, they argue, they could be exposed to the virus every time they take a patient.
“Other states have created Department of Health vaccination sites where any 1a Healthcare worker can schedule themselves to be vaccinated without a prior invitation,” the petition reads. “In Maryland, many Healthcare workers have been told to wait, but have not been given a timetable for when they will be permitted to receive the vaccine. Many have reached out to the Department of Health or their local counties but have received no information.”
As of Monday evening, the Change.org petition has nearly 500 signatures.
“We are right in the muck, we’re right in your face when we’re treating you,” Dr. Gary Bauman, a dentist at the Baltimore Center of Advanced Dentistry, said.
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Bauman is leading the charge to get the dental community vaccinated. He said he’s been trying to figure out exactly when they will be able to be vaccinated but hasn’t gotten a specific answer.
The nature of their jobs puts them at high risk for exposure, he said.
“As most people know, when we’re treating patients they can’t wear masks, and we are literally six inches away from COVID, possibly with asymptomatic patients every single time we see a patient,” he said.
The number of doses the state has of the vaccine is extremely limited.
A spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan said “the earliest vaccinations are for frontline hospital workers, nursing homes, and first responders… Local health departments will be making arrangements for all licensed health care providers to be vaccinated (this month).”
So far, 65,000 people have been vaccinated in Maryland — less than one percent of the state’s population — some at the state fairgrounds in Timonium. Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch said even before the vaccines arrived, they had a plan to administer them to people in need.
“What we wanted to do was vaccinate our staff who are the testers, vaccinate the staff who are the vaccinators and also vaccinate the EMS who are going out and taking care of sick people,” Branch said.
Still, Bauman said dentists are frustrated.
“We feel like we’ve been shunted… aside, that we aren’t considered front line healthcare workers when we are,” he said.