COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s health director said Friday that the state should be able to vaccinate all hospital workers, nursing home staff and nursing home residents against COVID-19 by the end of the year.Missouri is expecting to get nearly 340,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines this month, which should to cover everyone in the state’s top priority groups, health department Director Randall Williams said at a press conference.
Vaccines will be available to all hospital staffers, including cleaning workers and clergy, he said.
Once the initial groups receive their first and second doses of the vaccine, Missouri plans to open vaccinations to teachers, essential workers and people at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.
At-risk groups include people age 65 and older, people with diabetes or other high-risk illnesses, racial minorities, homeless people, and people living and working in group homes. Staff at critical manufacturing sites also will be eligible.
Williams said the Department of Health and Senior Services was particularly focused on encouraging vaccinations among racial minorities, whom Williams said had historically had concerns about vaccinations “for good reasons.”
“We’re very sensitive to that,” he said, “especially based on what we’ve learned: that those communities can be more vulnerable.”
Williams said Missouri planned to begin vaccinating nonessential workers in May. Anyone in the state who wants a vaccine should be able to get one by July or August, he said.
Missouri generally followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when deciding who should get the vaccine first.
The hope of the first wave of vaccinations comes as new cases continue to rise in Missouri.
The health department reported on Friday 18,211 new cases in the past week, or roughly 2,600 new cases a day on average. At least 89 people have died in the past week, according to the agency.
The city of St. Louis reported 122 new cases in the past week, with an average of 1,046 people hospitalized with the virus. The city’s positivity rate stood at 19 percent.
Case reports over the next week should show whether there’s been an increase following Thanksgiving family gatherings, Williams said.
MetroSTL.com staff contributed to this report.