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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri Officials Say All Health Workers Will Get Coronavirus Vaccines This Month

Dr. Randall Williams, the state's public health director, said chances of catching the coronavirus is now the highest its ever been in Missouri.
Jaclyn Driscoll
St. Louis Public Radio
Dr. Randall Williams, the state's public health director, said chances of catching the coronavirus is now the highest its ever been in Missouri.

Missouri officials say the state is on track to give coronavirus vaccine to all its health care workers by the end of this month, but it will be a long time until everyone in Missouri has received a dose.

The federal government is shipping an additional 73,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week, Gov. Mike Parson said.

About 105,000 health care workers in the state have received their first dose of the two-shot vaccine. That’s about one-third of the state’s more than 350,000 patient-facing health care workers.

That number does not include workers and residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities who are being vaccinated through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

“We are working through our vaccine plan as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Parson said. “But it is important to remember that the current demand is much greater than the supply.”

The state is limited by the number of doses it receives from the federal government, which distributes vaccine doses based on population, said Dr. Randall Williams, head of the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services.

Because Missouri has 2% of the country’s population, it receives 2% of the total number of available vaccines.

State officials can’t control the amount of vaccine the federal government is shipping to Missouri, he said.

“If we had three times as much vaccine, we would be able to get it out,” Williams said. “So really right now in Missouri, the rate-limiting step is simply the ‘in’ of how much vaccine we get.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state has administered nearly one-third of the doses it has received.

State officials say they expect to vaccinate all health care workers and nursing home personnel and residents by the end of this month. Once those people are vaccinated, the state will begin giving doses to other essential workers including teachers and emergency medical technicians.

The doses should be available to everyone who wants one by late summer, state health officials said.

But health experts in the St. Louis region said that timeline might not be plausible.

“I think summer is a generous estimate,” said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. “You can see how complicated even just vaccinating the health care sector is … and that’s a relatively small population. Once we get outside of the health care population it becomes much broader.”

Williams and Parson have offered few details on how that rollout would work. More details about how and where people will be able to receive vaccinations will be available next week, they said.

“We will have enough vaccine for everyone in Missouri to get it,” Williams said. “It just may take time to get to people a little slower than we like. I promise when we get it, we get it out the door and get it allotted.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.
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