ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nine mass vaccination sites operated by the Missouri National Guard were aiming to inoculate at least 18,000 residents statewide on Friday.
Most of the sites are in small towns such as Sedalia, Cape Girardeau and Troy. State officials expected to vaccinate 2,000 to 2,500 people at each of the nine clinics on Friday, and were planning to set up additional pop-up vaccination sites elsewhere in the state next week.
Dr. Hilary Babcock, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University and BJC HealthCare in St. Louis, called the mass vaccination clinics important.
“We need to get a lot of vaccine out, in a lot of different ways,” Babcock said.
Vaccinations have gone more slowly than expected in Missouri and across the country. President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday plans to ramp up vaccine distribution to states, promising a roughly 16 percent increase over the next three weeks.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 dashboard showed Missouri with the lowest percentage of residents getting a first vaccine dose. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, criticized the data but, that same day, announced he was diverting 25,000 doses away from CVS and Walgreens pharmacies for distribution by hundreds of other state-approved vaccinators.
Missouri’s vaccination numbers have since improved. The percentage of residents receiving at least one shot — 4.3 percent on Tuesday — was at 5.7 percent on Friday, according to data on the state’s COVID-19 website. All told, 350,555 Missourians have received at least one shot and 106,885 have received the second, according to state data.
All nine regions of the state will host additional vaccination clinics next week, in different locations, said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Senior Services. She said the National Guard sites on Friday targeted rural areas in part because many of the state’s large health systems are in urban areas, which have already vaccinated tens of thousands of health care workers.
Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center Director Jane Wernsman said appointments were filled for all of the approximately 2,000 vaccinations planned in Cape Girardeau on Friday.
The state reported 1,957 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday and 14 more deaths. Missouri has cited 456,530 cases and 6,739 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.