NHS England has confirmed all dental team members and their support staff in NHS and private settings will receive priority access to the COVID vaccine.

In an update from chief dental officer for England, Sara Hurley, writes that, alongside other health and care staff, dental professionals and their teams are now being prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccine.

She adds: 'This means that dental teams supporting the NHS, those working in private or mixed practices will all be entitled to a vaccine, this includes specialist practices and clinical dental technicians registered with the CQC.'

Today's update (Thursday7 January) states that dental professionals who work for a NHS trust will fall within the vaccination programme co-ordinated through their trust.

Locum clinical staff employed by the practice and non-clinical ancillary staff who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in patient care (e.g. receptionists and cleaners) are also included.

The coronavirus vaccination programme, the largest in the health service’s history, is off to a strong start having already vaccinated more people than anywhere else in Europe, and it is expanding geographically each week as vaccine supplies increase.

Sara adds: 'As frontline health professionals, it is important that when you are called to be vaccinated, you attend. Private practices are advised to ensure their contact details with the CQC are up to date as a matter of urgency. '

'Dentistry is an essential medical service, not an optional extra. Patients need to and deserve to see their dental teams and the vaccine roll out is another important next step in the fight against COVID-19 and restoring NHS dentistry.'

More widely, she adds, commissioners are able to issue those who work in NHS dental practices with documentation that prove critical worker status.

Dental teams are told that the NHS will contact them and that they do not need to contact the NHS, such as a GP surgery.

The update reads: 'First, the NHS will contact the email address your practice is registered with the NHS on to understand the number of people eligible for the vaccine.

'Once we know the demand, hospitals, and in some cases local vaccination centres, will then begin contacting you to come forward for the vaccine. This vaccine will in all likelihood be administered at your local hospital.'

Meanwhile, the CDO for England is encouraging dental professionals to volunteer to support the vaccination programme, if they have capacity after fulfilling clinical responsibilities.

She writes: 'Our profession's focus is quite rightly on tackling the backlog in dental care and expanding access, in line with the standard operating procedure.

'We are delighted that former members of NHS staff, including dental professionals, have applied to support the vaccination programme and actually tens of thousands of people have already completed their online training - these are being processed as quickly as possible and volunteers will be deployed as and when they are required.'