Vaccine rollout will expand soon, Missouri says

Vaccine rollout will expand soon, Missouri says

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Despite complaints about Missouri’s vaccination efforts, state health officials offered an optimistic outlook Wednesday, saying significantly more vaccines are expected soon and more sites will be distributing the doses.

State health officials said 9.2 percent of the state’s population had received at least one vaccine dose, with 2.9 percent having received two doses. A total of 741,108 vaccine doses have been administered, according to the health department’s dashboard.

The positive focus came on the same day that Gov. Mike Parson urged Missouri mayors to help spread a more positive outlook because he said he was getting “pounded” by daily criticism in the media over the state’s vaccine response.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, said in a virtual media conference that the state expected to receive next month a “fairly significant” amount of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot.

Johnson & Johnson has asked for emergency approval of its vaccine. Williams said Gen. Gustave Perna, head of the national Operation Warp Speed vaccination program, had told him Wednesday that the authorization was expected this month and tht Missouri should receive an “ample” supply in March.

Moderna and Pfizer also plan to increase their supply of their two-shot vaccines to about 200,000 million by June, he said.

And as part of a new federal program, 81 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies across Missouri will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines, beginning Friday. Additionally, 21 Health Mart independent pharmacies across the state will receive vaccine allocations soon.

The vaccines require registrations and will follow the state’s tiered system of who qualifies for the shots. The 102 Missouri retail pharmacies are scheduled to receive a total of more than 18,000 doses per week from the federal government, not from the state’s allocation of vaccines.

The state also announced this week that health care workers who have retired in the last five years and health care workers who are licensed in other states will be allowed to administer the vaccine in Missouri.

Adam Crumbliss, director of the division of community and public health, urged Missourians to consider how far the state had come since the vaccination process began in early December, saying both the state and the county have made significant progress in a few weeks. He said the progress would continue if Missourians stuck with basic guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“If you look at where we are in the COVID pandemic now, we’re really in about the fifth inning,” he said. “We’ve still got a ways to go.”

In a video meeting Wednesday, Parson told a group of mayors called Missouri Mayors United that the state was doing its best given the limited vaccine it was receiving from the federal government.

“The media’s just pounding me every way that they can pound any of us, saying, ‘We don’t have enough vaccine, you’re not doing a good enough job, we’re not getting to the African-American community.’ I mean, it just goes on down the list,” Parson said.

He urged the governors to emphasize to their constituents that it would take months to provide all the vaccination needed.

“Make sure people are knowing the good side of this … [COVID-19] numbers are going way down. I mean, you know, the media’s never going to say that,” Parson said.

The state recorded 976 more confirmed cases as of Wednesday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 468,489. It was the third straight day the number of new cases was below 1,000, compared with January, when daily increases averaged over 2,000 and peaked at 5,055 on Jan. 4. A total of 7,161 deaths from COVID-19 were reported Wednesday, up 12 from the previous day.

The state also has begun listing results for antigen COVID-19 testing, which provide results more quickly than the more widely used PCR tests that are generally considered more accurate. The antigen tests results are listed as “probable” cases and are designated as confirmed cases only after they are confirmed with PCR testing.

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