The British Dental Association has responded to feedback from members impacted by the global shortage of Hepatitis B Vaccine.
Despite their high risk status, dental nurses have not been given priority access to the vaccine by occupational health clinics, leaving members at risk of missing contract targets.
Manufacturing issues at drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline have left health services worldwide facing supply problems.
BDA General Dental Practice Chair, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said:
"The global shortage of Hepatitis B Vaccine is placing needless strain on UK dental practices, and any impact must be limited. We have contacted Public Health England to get nurses up the pecking order, giving them increased priority once supply restrictions ease. PHE appear to agree with us that dental nurses are at 'imminent and high risk of exposure', so should already fall into higher-priority groups alongside dentists who are able to access the vaccine now.
"However we know of members sending nurses to occupational health clinics to begin vaccination courses who have seen them turned away. So that priority access is, on the whole, not available as it should be. We have asked PHE for help establishing who might be responsible for suggesting to local occupational health providers that they can invoke an over-ride for people who fall into priority groups, including non-immunised dental nurses.
"We know many practices will be concerned about potential underperformance with nurses unable to work chairside. We have raised the issue directly with NHS England, and would encourage members to keep a close record of the impact on activity. Hardworking dentists should not face penalties because of failure at a pharmaceutical multinational."
The BDA recommends that dentists contact their defence organisation and employer liability insurance providers to ensure that they are complying with the terms of their cover.