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State and local officials still working on vaccine timeline, plans for upcoming phases in Missouri

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 6:58 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

We’re three weeks into the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine being administered in Missouri and many people are wondering when they’ll get their shot in the arm.

The answer is unclear right now as state and local officials are still working on firm timelines and distribution plans for the upcoming phases.

So if you’re wondering when the general population in the Show-Me State will be getting the COVID-19 vaccine and what procedures are in place for its distribution, take solace in the fact that those whose job it is to carry out that plan are wondering as well.

“We have not received direction from the state on when the vaccine will be available to the general public,” said David Wolfrath, Mercy Hospital’s Pharmacy Executive Director.

“It is an evolving situation and we get information almost daily about changes and forthcoming sorts of things that we’ll need to work through,” said Katie Towns, an Assistant Director with the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Department.

“We are hopeful that the state will allow hospitals and health departments to work together, give us the vaccine and quite frankly get out of the way and let us do what we’re good at,” added Steve Edwards, the President/CEO at CoxHealth.

Edwards and others though said they do understand why the process is going slow and encouraged the public to be patient. They pointed out that right now the emphasis is on Phase 1A involving getting shots for health care workers and long-term care facilities residents/staff with the rest of the phases still fluid because circumstances could change.

For instance, CoxHealth Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Robin Trotman pointed out that the number of vaccines available could change soon with more of them being approved.

“My hope is that we have maybe four vaccines by the spring-summer and that’s obviously going to help us move through those phases more quickly,” Trotman said.

“At the same time we always like to be prepared,” Edwards added over the lack of a finalized plan for the other phases. “We’d like to have the plan. We’d like to have it in-hand. We’d like to operate. We’re working on our plan assuming the state’s going to let us.”

According to Kelli Jones, the Communications Director for Missouri Governor Mike Parson, the governor’s office has taken the lead in the distribution process of vaccines but that the planning process is “a collaborative process”. Besides the state’s health department there are also nine regional commissions around the state involved in helping formulate specific guidelines.

“Inner city St. Louis is going to look very different than the boot heel,” Edwards said of the need for different approaches in different places.

Dr. Trotman is one of those involved in the planning.

“I’m working with the state to develop what medical criteria define these phases and what these medical conditions look like,” he said.

“Right now their (those doing the planning) prioritization has been focused on that 1B section (high risk individuals, first responders and essential workers) and they told me in a call the other day that about half the state qualifies under that,” Edwards added.

If you’d like to find out more about where you fit in, officials say their latest information can be found on the state’s COVID-19 website at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/.

But one thing Edwards said you should do right now is to get a primary care doctor if you don’t have one because when it comes to actually getting the shots, that will be handled by local health care professionals and others who’ve been approved to give the vaccine.

“If you let Cox and Mercy and the health departments lead this charge we’ll get it done,” he said. “And we’ll get it done more quickly than if you let state assets do it because quite frankly, the state’s good at governing. They’re not good at implementing health care.”

Arkansas is hoping to finish its first phase of vaccines to about 180-thousand people by the end of January. That group includes police, firefighters, health care workers and nursing home residents. Phase Two, which includes those age 70-and-older, will start in February and plans for the rest of the private sector will be announced by January 15th.

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