Community Medical Centers received its first shipment of vaccine for Covid-19 last month. Photo contributed

published on January 19, 2021 - 2:40 PM
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While vaccinations begin to ramp up in the Central Valley, one group often overlooked on the front lines is vying for access to help inoculate the community.

This is according to Fresno oral surgeon Ardavan Kheradpir, outgoing president of the Fresno Madera Dental Society. Kheradpir, along with the rest of his colleagues in the dental and orthodontics professions, says that members of his profession are some of the most at risk, owing to the impossibility for social distancing that their work entails.

“The reality is that dentistry is a discipline which requires the patient and the doctor to be in an intimate contact kind of setting where you have the patient’s mouth open, obviously, and by virtue of what you have to do, you’re exposed to aerosols,” Kheradpir said. “You’re exposed to the patient’s breath — they’re essentially breathing in your face.”

Their efforts have been met with varying levels of levels of success, depending on the county. Kheradpir says that while gaining access has been going relatively smoothly, Fresno County has been slow to grant its dentists their doses of the vaccine. However Kheradpir also pointed out that a large reason for this is the larger population of Fresno County.

To help speed up the process, Kheradpir and his colleagues have proposed allowing them access to doses and letting them administer the vaccine for both themselves and their patients, which they are medically qualified to do. Earlier this month, the California Department of Consumer Affairs approved a waiver to do exactly this.

“It’s up to the County to use us,” Kheradpir said. “We’re here, we’re ready and whenever the call comes, we’ll be able to do this.”

But things might be starting to turn around in regards to immunization access. In a Friday afternoon press briefing, members of the Fresno County Department of Public Health said that they are ready and willing to receive applications.

“We haven’t seen any dentists approved through the state process,” said Joe Prado, community health division manager for the FCDPH. “Like other medical providers, the dentists have to submit a request through the CalREDIE… system.”

The California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE) is the system currently being used by the California Department of Public Health for surveillance and tracking of communicable illnesses such as Covid-19.

Prado further elaborated that the lack of approved applications for dental offices to distribute the vaccine may be due to the CalREDIE site being down for several days, and said he hoped to see their clinics on the list shortly.

This was then followed up with a statement by David Luchini, assistant health director for Fresno County. According to Luchini, dental workers were vaccinated that same day at the County’s administration site at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

“[I vaccinated] a bunch of dentists and dental hygienists and I asked if they were flossing once a day,” Luchini said. “So I got right back at them.”

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