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ADA Releases Statement Regarding Ethics of Vaccination


The American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Ethics, Bylaws, and Judicial Affairs released a statement on October 20 regarding ethical questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccination. The statement leaves the door open for dentists to dismiss patients who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, although it suggests alternatives to such moves. It also makes clear that oral health professionals are ethically obligated to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 and other contagious diseases in order to best serve their patients.

The conclusion of the statement reads verbatim:

Refusal of care altogether or dismissing patients is not per se unethical, so long as necessary precautions are taken as may be dictated in your state and patient abandonment does not occur; however, this misses a teachable public health opportunity and an opportunity to build trust with patients and to “use skills, knowledge, and experience for the improvement of the dental health of the public.”

As with most ethical dilemmas, the risks and benefits must be evaluated on the particular facts and circumstances, and the dentist should demonstrate the qualities of honesty, compassion, kindness, integrity, fairness and charity. 

Additionally, to avoid contributing to the spread of disease, dental professionals have an ethical obligation to be vaccinated, unless they have a recognized medical contraindication, according to current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the ADA. Any personal negative feelings of dentists to vaccination do not outweigh their ethically and scientifically based professional responsibility to act to limit the spread of harmful infectious diseases.

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