Just a few weeks ago, on Dec. 11, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first vaccine to be authorized for the prevention of COVID-19. A week later, an additional order was issued by the FDA approving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
While this is a huge step forward in our fight against COVID-19, it does not come without huge controversy and many questions. Though some have sworn to not trust these vaccines, others are desperately seeking it and wondering when their turn in line will come.
The decisions about who will receive the vaccine and when are decided by each state. Individual states are now establishing their own distribution plans and creating a level of priority for each individual depending on exposure risks and survival outcomes. The ADA has advocated for dentists and dental team members to be vaccinated with other essential health care personnel in the first phase of the vaccine distribution.
On Dec. 4, the Texas Department of Health & Human Services published their COVID-19 vaccination plan presenting the principles on which health care professionals will get priority in receiving vaccinations for COVID-19. Dentists were not included.
I work at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Houston, one of the cities that has been hard hit by COVID-19. My health center partnered with a local hospital to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations for clinical staff who were part of the Phase 1A priority group established by the Department of State Health Services. Fortunately for me, at my FQHC, dentists were considered to be among those as having direct contact with patients who might be infectious and thus eligible for immediate vaccination. Just a few days before Christmas, I was offered the vaccine through my work and I quickly scheduled an appointment.
On Dec. 23, I received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. When I arrived, staff members took my temperature and screened me for COVID. Once assigned a nurse, he went over what the vaccine was and what to expect throughout the next couple of days. After receiving the shot, I was told to wait in the area for 15 minutes to watch for any adverse reactions and was scheduled for my next dose in three weeks. The whole process was seamless and took less than 30 minutes.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe in humans with minimal side effects and has been proven to prevent COVID-19 following two doses given three weeks apart. The duration of protection against COVID-19 is currently unknown. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and therefore cannot give you COVID-19.
Symptoms I was warned about included injection site pain, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. However, the only symptoms I experienced were injection site pain and some tiredness that lasted no more than a day.
As a health care professional, it is my duty to trust in the scientific method and to do what is right for my community by getting vaccinated. It’s important for us as dentists to be role models for our community to help end this pandemic by getting vaccinated if we are healthy and able to do so. I’m grateful for the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and thankful for the ADA for advocating for priority vaccinations for the dental team. It is important for us to work with our local and state dental societies to continue to push for priority vaccinations for our profession.
Editor’s note: Check out the ADA’s new COVID-19 vaccination fact sheet, which provides the current status of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. along with information about vaccine safety and efficacy. The fact sheet will be updated regularly.
Dr. Alex Barrera is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and practices general dentistry at Avenue 360 Health & Wellness in Houston, Texas. He graduated in 2017 from the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston and is a member of various organizations including the American Dental Association, Hispanic Dental Association, Greater Houston Dental Association, and the Houston Equality Dental Network. He currently serves as the chair of the New Dentist Committee for the Hispanic Dental Association and is in the current class of the ADA’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership. Dr. Barrera is a participant in the National Health Service Corps and alumni of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking and staying active with CrossFit and Yoga.