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Missouri vaccinations could start Thursday, official says

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri expects to receive more than 220,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines by about Christmas if federal authorization for emergency use is granted, and the first vaccinations could begin by Thursday.

Gov. Mike Parson’s office said Friday that Missouri could receive an initial shipment of 51,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, probably between Monday and Wednesday, assuming authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine will be administered first to health care workers. The vaccines will go straight from the manufacturer to those administering it without passing through state custody, though the state is responsible for determining how many doses go to each site.

Meanwhile, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said in a separate briefing that if all goes according to plan, “I anticipate we will probably be vaccinating people in Missouri next Thursday.”

The following week, Missouri expects to receive an additional 63,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 105,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which also still requires federal clearance. Staff and residents in long-term care facilities will begin receiving vaccines from that second week’s shipment. Employees from Walgreens and CVS pharmacies will be largely responsible for administering the vaccines at long-term care facilities under a federal agreement.

An FDA panel of outside advisers has endorsed emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine. The FDA is not required to follow that guidance, but two administration officials told The Associated Press that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressed FDA chief Stephen Hahn to grant emergency use by the end of Friday or face potential firing.

Whether a site receives the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will depend largely on its capabilities to store and distribute the vaccines. The Pfizer vaccines must be delivered in allotments of at least 975 doses, stored at -90 degrees, administered within 10 days of arrival and within 6 hours of opening a vial, which contains multiple doses. The Moderna vaccine can be delivered in allotments of as few as 100 doses and stored at -4 degrees.

Both vaccines require recipients to receive a second dose to be most effective, 21 days later for the Pfizer vaccine, and 28 days later for the Moderna vaccine.

Williams said the next phase of vaccinations — for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters and police officers — would begin in the first or second week of January, and everyone else would start in April. Everyone who wants a vaccination could have one by July, he said.

Missouri has no statewide mask mandate, but Williams cautioned that people will need to continue taking precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing through most of the summer.

The vaccines offer hope for the future, but the present remains concerning. Missouri reported another 31 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths related to COVID-19 to 4,481 since the pandemic began. The state has cited 226 deaths this month alone.

Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard also reported 3,900 new confirmed cases, bringing the pandemic total to 338,604. Hospital in-patient bed capacity remains low, at 20 percent, and intensive care unit bed space is at 16 percent.

St. Louis County’s health department released a new report showing the virus’s devastating impact on people inside long-term care facilities.

The report shows 913 long-term care residents in the county were diagnosed with COVID-19 in November, up from 276 new cases in October. All told, 3,762 long-term care residents in St. Louis County have been diagnosed since the pandemic began, and 593 have died. Nearly 60 percent of county residents who have died from the virus have been long-term care residents.

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