COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A group representing Missouri's nurses says the state could be facing a coronavirus vaccine crunch with too few workers to administer the vaccine.
Heidi Lucas, director of the Missouri Nurses Association, told ABC 17 News she's concerned that once the vaccine is available to the public there will be a shortage of nurses and staff who are qualified to administer it.
"Once the vaccine is in the state we are going to have a massive need for people who know how to give injections to be giving those," Lucas said. "The vaccine rollout is going to be a huge undertaking and I don’t think people realize exactly how big of an undertaking that’s going to be. We haven’t seen anything in this country like this probably since the smallpox rollout."
Lucas said there is already a nursing shortage nationally and statewide that could translate into not having enough people to provide injections.
The first coronavirus vaccine in the United States, made by Pfizer, could win approval for emergency use later this week. Missouri is expecting hundreds of thousands of doses from Pfizer and another made by Moderna in the next two weeks.
The state's first doses will go to nursing home residents and workers and other frontline medical workers.
Lucas said students currently in nursing programs will be trained on injections and will be on the front lines of administering the vaccine. She said the need will be so great that retired nurses will be asked to administer vaccinations. Lucas said she has already seen programs in Kansas City to get volunteers certified to provide injections.
States across the country are getting creative to fill the need for people to administer the vaccine.
Organizations representing dentists and optometrists in California and Oregon are talking with public officials about providing coronavirus vaccinations. Nursing students at Montana State University have already been given the green light to administer flu shots this fall because of the national nursing shortage.
Lucas expects the rollout of the COVID vaccinations will be bigger than the smallpox immunization that many people alive today did not experience.
"If you’re under the age of 50 you haven’t gotten the smallpox vaccine, most likely," Lucas said. "It’s going to be that level of rollout, perhaps even bigger than that and it’s going to be nationally in a short period of time and we need individuals who are able to give those injections to do so. "
Scott Clardy, the Assistant Director of the Boone County Public Health and Human Services department said, they've used nursing students and retired nurses before for previous immunizations. They will evaluate when the COVID vaccine is available to the public and may use both again if needed in the future.
A registered nurse from Big Tree Medical Home in Jefferson City said that it's a great experience for nursing students if they are called to help with vaccinations. She explained it's important for students to be fully informed on the vaccine before administering it. "Definitely a lot of research needs to go behind before they have nursing students just administering them. They need to know what to watch for, things to educate the patient on, what to watch for and when to seek medical care if something were to go wrong."
Eric Maze, spokesman for MU Health care said in a statement, "We are confident that we will have enough staff to administer the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. We work closely within our organization to identify and properly train those who will be administering the vaccine, including nursing students who are trained to perform vaccinations as part of their learning and educational requirements. In the past, MU Health Care has also utilized retired nursing staff to assist with vaccination clinics, and we anticipate this practice will be part of the COVID-19 vaccination effort as well."
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have not responded to requests for more information.
Check back for more on this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.