The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) included orthotists and prosthetists on its list of frontline workers who should be first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine; however, the CDC guidelines only serve as suggestions for the states, and which of the subgroups in the phase one rollout may vary.
Hospitals and other healthcare entities where practitioners provide O&P services may have vaccination programs for contractors working in their facilities, which could provide another avenue. The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) suggested that O&P professionals contact their state’s Department of Health for specific guidance.
In many states, vaccinations are being handled differently by each county, and the county health departments have measures in place to coordinate the rollout, Sheryl Sachs, CPO, Dankmeyer Prosthetics & Orthotics, Linthicum Heights, Maryland, told AOPA. “Each county has a different website for their health department and form for companies to complete, requesting vaccinations for staff. They are then approved and individuals can sign up for the vaccine,” Sachs said.
Brock Berta, AOPA’s Indiana state representative, is coordinating vaccinations for employees in seven states. He is encouraging O&P clinicians to communicate with their county health departments and medical facilities. “Do not wait to be contacted,” he said.
The O&P EDGE reached out for other perspectives about getting vaccinated.
Eve Lee, MBA, CAE, AOPA executive director, said, “After advocating for it, AOPA was pleased to see O&P providers included in the initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Access to vaccination is not only crucial to reduce infection of O&P providers, but to also reduce potential exposure to the vulnerable patient populations that they treat.”
Guy Lev PT, DPT, COMT, supervisor, Rehab Services for UCHealth Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Clinic, Denver, says it is imperative that orthotists and prosthetists are vaccinated among frontline providers. “For so many of our patients with prosthetic and orthotic needs, prosthetists and orthotists are the provider without which, in many cases, they would not be able to function,” he said.
It is essential for orthotists and prosthetists to remain accessible and safe to provide these critical services, Lev said. “So many prosthetists and orthotists travel to people’s homes and, by the nature of the work, are unable to socially distance from their clients. It is, therefore, appropriate and imperative for the care of the patients, the safety of the providers, and to decrease the chance of becoming a vector for the virus.”
Lee agreed. “Including O&P providers in the initial distribution will benefit both providers and their patients, and AOPA appreciates that this was acknowledged by the CDC’s Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices,” she said.
Finally, Lev said, the vaccine is the only way out of the pandemic, and he has received both shots with no adverse reaction.
“It is important that we, as healthcare providers, trust our scientists and the science, and lead by example, by being vaccinated.” Lev added that even after being vaccinated, everyone needs to continue to practice the basics of good hygiene: social distancing where possible, hand washing and cleaning, proper masking, and avoiding others when sick or exposed. “It’s critical that all of us, as citizens of this country and this world, to take care of ourselves, and each other, by being vaccinated so that we eventually create the herd immunity that will bring this pandemic to an end.”
Responses to an informal poll regarding the COVID-19 vaccine on The O&P EDGE social media sites showed that while most favored getting vaccinated, several people responded that they had no plans to get a shot in the arm.
“Absolutely not,” said one woman. “I haven’t taken the flu or pneumonia vaccines either. I haven’t been sick in decades and I don’t wear masks.”