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Missouri National Guard to help staff mass coronavirus vaccination sites

National Guard at test site
ABC 17 News
National Guard and other vehicles sit on the Hickman High School parking lot during community COVID-19 testing Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Missouri National Guard will help staff mass coronavirus vaccinations clinics across the state as more people become eligible for the shot.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that the Guard will send teams to each of the state's nine highway patrol regions to set up the clinics. The first is being created now in southeast Missouri, Parson said.

Parson, speaking at a coronavirus briefing with state leaders in the Capitol, also pleaded for patience from the public, saying limited vaccine supply is slowing the process of giving coronavirus vaccine shots.

"It is important to remember the current demand far outweighs the current supply," Parson said. "The reality is that even though your phase may be activated that does not necessarily mean that you’ll be able to receive the vaccine right away."

Missouri began Tier 2 of Phase 1B of the coronavirus vaccine plan this week. That tier includes people over age 65 and those with underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

However, many of those people are not yet able to get shots because of a lack of availability in their areas.

Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below.

Parson said the supply remains "extremely limited."

Parson said the state has administered more than 265,000 vaccine doses, though officials cautions that number is lower than the actual number administered because of reporting delays.

The state will receive another 76,000 doses by the end of this week and a similar amount next week, he said.

Dr. Randall Williams, head of the Missouri Department of Health and Human Service, said about 2.5 million Missourians are part of Tier 2. The lagging supply is the main factor limiting the number of shots given, Williams said.

Williams said the state distributes the vaccine to health care providers, health departments and other vaccine providers based on multiple factors including how many doses a region has received and the number of vulnerable members in the local population. He said the state expects more coronavirus vaccines to be authorized soon, opening up more supply.

The National Guard teams will have the ability to give 2,500 shots per day once established, Parson said. The Guard has started securing sites for the mass clinics and will have them running by the end of the month, he said.

Guard members will also help with targeted vaccination clinic teams in Kansas City and St. Louis. Those groups will work with clergy to get vaccines to hard-to-reach populations, Parson said.

The mass and targeted vaccination teams are meant to supplement efforts by providers already administering vaccines, Parson said, not replace them.

The Guard has been involved in providing coronavirus relief since the pandemic began last spring. Adjutant General Levon Cumpton said 290 Guard members are currently deployed on those missions, which include helping with food banks, data entry, vaccine distribution planning and call centers.

Guard members have also helped staff community testing events, including one in Columbia.

Parson and Williams said the state's recent coronavirus case trends are reason for celebration. Missouri is in the top 10 of states for fewest cases over the last seven days, Williams said.

The positivity rate of 12.4% is nearly half what it was in November, Parson said.

“And unlike other states, Missouri did not see dramatic increases in cases over the holidays or the weeks following,” Parson said. This week that number has fallen five percentage points, he said.

However, Parson said hospitalizations remain high, causing continued strain on hospitals. The timeline for wide vaccine availability is fluid, meaning Missourians must continue to take precautions such as wearing masks and distancing, Parson said.

Williams said state officials have already been in contact with the administration of President Joe Biden, who was sworn in Wednesday. Biden has pledged to speed up vaccination by administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days.

As of Wednesday, 441,789 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6,461 have died from it since the pandemic started.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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