COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri will begin next week to give part of its weekly coronavirus vaccine allocation to pharmacies to boost the number of doses reaching underserved areas.
Gov. Mike Parson announced the change during his weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday in the Missouri Capitol. Selected pharmacies across the state will start to get 15% of the state's dose allocation next week, he said. The state plans to start with 161 pharmacies in 84 counties with hard-to-reach populations.
The state is working to identify more pharmacies, specifically targeting vulnerable populations and counties that are not represented.
Parson said the state will also increase the number of clinics happening in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, with two dedicated mass vaccination teams in Kansas City and three in St. Louis. They expect a full transition by April 1.
The mass and targeted vaccination clinics will use Johnson & Johnson vaccine when they can because it requires only one shot instead of two.
The state will shift away starting March 22 from allocating doses based on a region's overall population. Instead, doses will be designated for the state's highway patrol regions based on the number of eligible people in an area who have not been vaccinated, a consultant with the McChrystal group told vaccinators on a call this week.
The consultant also said the state will not receive any more of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine until the end of March after getting an initial shipment of 50,000 doses this week.
Dr. Randall Williams, the head of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state already understood that more Johnson & Johnson doses might be slow to come after the initial round. But more will come later, he said.
"By the last week of March, and certainly the first week of April, our understanding is that the Johnson & Johnson will significantly ramp up," Williams said.
Meanwhile, the state is planning to open up the next tier of vaccinations, which includes teachers, childcare workers and grocery workers, on March 15. That adds about 550,000 Missourians to the eligibility pool.
Health care workers, nursing home staff, first responders, people 65 and older and those with certain conditions are also eligible.
Watch the briefing live in the player below.
With Tier 3 open, 3.5 million Missourians will be eligible to get vaccinated.
The state still expects to receive at least 120,000 doses of Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine each week.
Parson continued Thursday to tout the state's dropping coronavirus numbers, noting that hospitalizations have dipped under 1,000 fort he first time since September. The number of Missourians hospitalized with COVID-19 is down 68% since the first week of January, Parson said.
Williams said in response to a question about the lowering case rates and hospitalizations that "this is not the time to stop" taking precautions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Check back for more on this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6 p.m.