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

All Missouri Adults Will Be Eligible For COVID Vaccine April 9

St. Louis County workers are vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at the mass vaccination site located on the campus of St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County workers are vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at the mass vaccination site located on the campus of St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley.

Updated at 6:54 p.m. with additional information and reaction from the St. Louis region

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that nearly 2 million Missourians will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 9, when every adult in the state qualifies.

Parson said the first 900,000 will include homeless people, construction workers and those who work in higher education, all of whom become eligible for the vaccine on March 29.

State officials say they’re expecting the federal government to begin sending more doses starting in April.

Parson's announcement came hours after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said residents over age 16 in his state would be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by April 12.

Missouri's plan to distribute the vaccine based on population made it available to a higher percentage of people in rural communities while urban areas saw demand far greater than the available supply. That led many people in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions to travel for hours to find vaccine appointments.

But Parson said that strategy made for an effective rollout.

“The reality is when you go to rural Missouri in the beginning you’re going to vaccinate a large percentage of those so you don’t have to go back,” Parson said. “Then you can take those resources and go to urban areas.”

So far, about 20% of Missouri’s 6 million residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That ranks among the bottom fifth of all states, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Parson's announcement means that 4.5 million Missourians will be eligible in April.

The state is now ready to send more vaccine to urban areas as it expects to see a significant increase soon in federal shipments of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, the governor said.

“It is critical we start preparing for this potential influx and ensure there is a consistent number of people who are eligible and interested in receiving a vaccine,” Parson said.

The governor said that state officials expect 60% of eligible adults to request the vaccine and that younger people are less likely to do so.

“People 65 years and older are probably going to have a little different view of this than somebody younger,” Parson said. “I think they’ll have a little more incentive to go out and get the vaccine.”

Now that many health care workers, nursing home residents, and other people at high risk of getting sick have been vaccinated, making everyone eligible makes sense, said Dr. Sarah George, an infectious disease professor at St. Louis University.

“If we have enough vaccine to schedule all adults, we should definitely go ahead and do that,” George said. “The sooner we put an end to this pandemic the better for everybody.”

The news that the state was expanding eligibility came as great news to Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library. He was especially relieved for his staff.

“We’re working curbside,” Bonner said, as he hustled books to the cars of patrons who ordered them online. “Some people are facing the public all day, every day. They’re taking those risks.”

Bonner said he’s happy to see librarians included in the group eligible March 29, “because they ignored us before.”

People who work in higher education also are pleased that they will be eligible for the vaccine then, though some are frustrated that it took so long.

“On the one hand, I'm excited,” said Sowande Mustakeem, an associate professor of History, African and African American Studies at Washington University. “Here is the way that we all can come back together and have some sense of normalcy. But at the same time, it is interesting to see where the value of teachers and professors and staff and those who are shaping the future is.”

Andrea Henderson contributed to this report.

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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