Shift in state plan funnels more vaccines to Missouri hospitals

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Until the last week of January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Missouri last in the percentage of residents — 3.9 percent — who had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) announced Monday that it was revising the state’s distribution plan to get more doses to select hospitals with the capacity to inoculate at least 5,000 people a week.

Under the plan, 53 percent of the 76,000 doses Missouri now receives weekly from the federal government will go to qualifying hospitals and 23 percent to mass vaccination events run by local health agencies in partnership with the Missouri National Guard.

In addition, local county and city public health agencies will receive 8 percent, as will federally qualified health centers, and another 8 percent will be allocated to providers, including smaller hospitals.

“We are committed to fairly allocating doses in regions throughout the state and working with vaccinators to ensure efficient administration of the vaccine,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “Our partnership with the selected hospitals will help provide the consistency needed for effective planning of high-volume vaccine clinics to occur at the local level.”

The DHSS reported Monday that nearly 398,000 people have received a first dose of vaccine, or 6.5 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated. Of those, nearly 118,420 have received the second of the two-dose regimen.

Parson said the state will take doses previously provided to CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate those living and working in long-term care facilities that remain after use.

Missouri Hospital Association President/CEO Herb Kuhn said hospitals selected to receive additional vaccines have shown they can swiftly and effectively get vaccines in arms.

“The hospitals included in the first phase of this plan were selected for their ability to rapidly begin community vaccination efforts on a large scale,” Kuhn said. “Beginning (Monday) – and continuing as vaccines arrive in the days and weeks ahead – hospitals will be sharing how community members can sign up for their vaccine.”

Rural areas in Missouri and elsewhere are being overlooked and underserved in access to vaccines, Republican members of Missouri’s congressional delegation said last week in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking help distributing COVID-19 vaccines to rural and underserved communities.

Missouri U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley both joined Missouri U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, Vicky Hartzler, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Jason Smith and Ann Wagner in sending a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Peter Gaynor and senior FEMA official Bob Fenton.

Missouri needs transportation and distribution assistance to get the vaccine to rural areas, the delegation said, suggesting supplemental funding FEMA has received from Congress “should be used within the state and region for its intended purpose — to help get vaccines into the field.”

“While Missouri has administered nearly half of the doses that have been distributed to the state — a statistic on par with the majority of other states — the logistical challenges of transporting and administering multiple doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to underserved parts of the state remains a challenge, as well as to other states within (FEMA) Region 7,” the letter said. “This may be why no state within FEMA Region 7 currently falls within the top half of the CDC’s list vaccination.”

FEMA Region 7 encompasses Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The delegation said the federal emergency funding approved in December included $17 billion for FEMA to aid states on vaccine administration and distribution.

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