CoronavirusFeaturedNewsThe NorthSider

State promises aldermen to help city vaccinate those most in need

CITY HALL – Missouri is taking steps to ensure that those most in need get vaccinated, two state health officials last week promised members of a Board of Aldermen committee who were worried the city is being shortchanged.

In a teleconference, Robert Knodell, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, said there had been a steady increase in weekly allocations to the state since the federal government started sending out vaccines in the middle of December. The allocation to the state has increased to nearly 100,000 a week now from about 35,000 doses a week in mid-December, Knowdell told members of the aldermanic Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.

Those eligible for vaccinations include health care workers and residents of long term care facilities, emergency workers, first responders, those 65 and over and those under 65 with a health condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19.

Separately, allocations are going to community health care providers that receive funds from the federal government to provide primary care services in underserved areas. Another program provides vaccinations through CVS and Walgreens for those in long-term skilled care facilities.

Yet another program is set to provide allocations to Walmart and Health Mart pharmacies.

“The expectation is that in the future that the number of pharmacy chains and locations and facilities that are in that program will be increased as supply increases,” Knodell said.

There has been concern that there are no Walmarts and few Health Mart pharmacies in the city.

Dr. Adam Crumbliss, director of the state Division of Community and Public Health, said in a video presentation that Parson wanted to take steps to stop healthy people who want to bump into line from getting vaccination before their time.

Crumbliss said Parson had told Dr. Randall W. Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, that there should be more mechanisms of enforcement. That agency is over the state Division of Community and Public Health.

“Dr. Williams, anytime that he gets word or expressed concern about a specific facility or provider, he has taken it upon himself to call them and have specific engaged discussions online,” Crumbliss told members of the Board of Aldermen’s Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.

“We do have great concern if we hear of groups that are essentially jumping the line in front of others that have higher priority based on the established tiers,” Crumbliss said..

Eleventh Ward Alderwoman Sarah Martin said she was concerned that St. Louis was getting much less of an allocation of vaccine than some other counties.

Because St. Louis has hospital systems that are treating people during the pandemic from throughout the state, people from elsewhere are receiving vaccinations at hospitals here, Martin said. Those vaccinations are being counted toward the allocations here, she said.

This  causes large disparities among counties, she said. Places such as Shelby County are getting many more vaccine than here, Martin said.

“For instance, my husband’s 90-year-old grandparents can’t seem to get vaccinated, and they can’t drive to one of these other locations,” she said.

Crumbliss said the state was working with the local Area Agencies on Aging and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Inc.

As one step toward improving distribution, Crumbliss said, the state has launched its Missouri Vaccine Navigator system so individuals can sign up for vaccination events in the area. The link is at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator/. Those who don’t have access to the Internet may call the COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411. The navigator website cautions that it might not have information about all events and encourages people to also contact public health care officials and facilities in their area.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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