As of February 3, ISDS was pleased to report approximately 85% of the 1,500 dentists responding had received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Of the 15% who had not gotten the vaccine, 25% had an appointment scheduled.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ISDS has consistently responded to the ever-changing challenges posed by the coronavirus by keeping members updated on news of vital importance to the dental profession. The COVID-19 information page on our website contains valuable resources that dentists need for navigating through the pandemic. News releases, the latest vaccine information, and consistent e-mail communication have aided our members during the crisis.
It was through our advocacy efforts in affirming dentistry as essential healthcare that dental professionals were given priority to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a of the state’s vaccine rollout. When the Illinois Department of Public Health announced its vaccination plan in early December, ISDS immediately shared this information with its members on December 7. Routine e-mail communication to members regarding the COVID-19 vaccine began in mid-December.
By this time, members were inquiring about where to obtain the vaccine since local health departments, tasked with reaching out to groups in Phase 1a, were inconsistent in their approach across the state. Therefore, ISDS promptly began reaching out to component leaders for help in contacting local health departments to develop a plan for how oral health care providers would receive the vaccine. In a December 16 e-mail communication to members, ISDS provided an important update on what was known about vaccine distribution to dental professionals at that time and what was not yet clear.
Daily updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccine continued to be communicated to members through e-mail as soon as they became available. These e-mails contained detailed information on how members of local dental societies in each county throughout the state could connect with vaccination sites and make plans for getting vaccinated. The most up-to-date information including health department vaccination procedures by county were available by clicking on a link in these communications. This communication proved invaluable to members and helped them easily make plans for obtaining the vaccine. On January 25, The state of Illinois followed suit and announced the creation of a similar resource to provide statewide vaccination site information.
On January 22, ISDS reached out to members to complete an online survey to assess how many member dentists had received the COVID-19 vaccine. As of February 3, ISDS was pleased to report approximately 85% of the 1,500 dentists responding had received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Of the 15% who had not gotten the vaccine, 25% had an appointment scheduled. The survey also helped identify areas of the state where vaccination levels among dentists might be lagging, so issues in those counties can be addressed. This very successful vaccination rate among dentists in the state attests to the efficient approach the ISDS took in getting pertinent vaccine scheduling information out to its members.
The survey also asked if dentists would be willing to administer the vaccine at a mass volunteer vaccination event/public health facility, or in their practice. About half of the respondents were willing to administer the vaccine in one of these settings. On January 29, through the efforts of Dave Marsh, Director of Governmental Affairs, the governor issued a proclamation detailing how dentists can help the vaccination effort. Dentists can either obtain a one-hour training requirement to volunteer at a mass vaccination site, or obtain a four-hour training requirement to administer the vaccine in their office. This is another success the ISDS has achieved regarding the vaccination effort. To satisfy the necessary training required to volunteer at mass vaccination sites, ISDS developed a “Just In Time COVID-19 Immunization Training” course, which can be accessed at www.isds.org/continuing-education/on-demand-courses
The ISDS’s successful outreach to local health departments and component leaders to mobilize a vaccination plan for member dentists and communicate this plan to them through news releases and frequent emails facilitated a smooth process for members eager to obtain the vaccine. As a result, dentists have achieved a very high COVID-19 vaccination rate during the state’s first vaccination phase. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the value and utility of the tripartite membership structure of the ADA, ISDS, and local dental societies has never been higher.