This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.
Teachers, childcare workers, food processing workers and other critical infrastructure workers can get a COVID-19 vaccine from March 15, Governor Mike Parson announced Thursday.
Activation of the next phase – Tier 3 of Phase 1B – Follows the state’s priority of saving lives, Parson said.
“This is exactly why we started with our healthcare workers, our first responders, and our most vulnerable populations. Tier three is another very important part of our society, ”said Parson. “They are the workers in many industries that we depend on every day to keep our daily lives functioning normally.”
Parson’s announcement comes days after state health officials urged vaccine providers to prepare for expanded eligibility and follows the growing demands of the past few weeks to make educators eligible now.
It also comes hours after local health officials expressed concern to Parson’s advisors that opening all of Stage 3 at once could be too messy.
“If we open the full floor, it’ll be a challenge,” said Rex Archer, the Kansas City Health Department’s health director, during a conference call Thursday with members of the Missouri Advisory Committee on Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution.
State health officials have stated that there is no set threshold for extending the stages of the state and so far have resisted demands eligible underlying conditions to be extended and for teachers to be moved up to a higher level.
Parson said Thursday’s announcement was due in part to an expected surge in vaccine supplies in Missouri after Johnson & Johnson’s one-time vaccine was approved, which can be kept at normal refrigeration levels for at least three months.
Enabling the next tier will ensure that eligible residents receive a vaccine at all times, Parson said.
“This will allow vaccines across the state to keep vaccinating Missourians without having to wait for those who don’t,” Parson said.
Although the state believes Johnson & Johnson cans will be shipped to Missouri soon after its approval, cans are still around Not enough vaccine to currently cover all eligible individuals.
It is estimated that more than 3 million people fall below Missouri’s current levels. Activating Tier 3 Phase 1B will add an estimated 550,000 eligible residents. Parson said of the 3.5 million eligible residents, a recent Missouri association found that about 40 percent would choose not to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, according to the state dashboard 756,334 people received at least the first dose as of Wednesday.
This week alone, Parson said the state had been allocated over 120,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine, with expectations rising next week. If the vaccine supply continues to increase and steady progress is made, phase 2 can be activated as early as 45 days after March 15, according to Parson.
Less than two hours before Parson’s announcement, members of the Missouri Advisory Committee on Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution asked if this could be further clarified.
“… Although I know the governor may have already made a decision,” Archer said, “but maybe we can talk a little about it and see if any part of that decision can be refined before it is announced.”
Members of the committee suggested that certain groups, such as B. Teachers, to give direction to vaccine providers.
Larry Jones, the executive director of the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence and a member of the committee, also suggested soliciting input from agencies such as the Missouri Department of Economic Development to weigh up how to prioritize different groups of key workers.
“I just think it will be easier for all of our vaccines to work on the same page,” Jones said.
Adam Crumbliss, director of the Department of Community and Public Health at DHSS, told members that the state is trying to take a holistic approach that takes into account both demand and the planned jump in supply.
“I think sometimes one of the challenges is that if we look at the data and just look at the demand and leave out the supply side, we can slow down and distort the choices that are made,” said Crumbliss.
The arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also raise new questions for the stateB. How which groups the one-shot vaccine will target and how to overcome potential concerns about its effectiveness.
Local health officials have proposed giving priority to people with homelessness to eliminate the need to return for a booster dose within three or four weeks, as required by Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
An analysis by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday found that Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine offered strong protection against hospitalization and death. It had an effectiveness rate of 86 percent against severe forms of COVID in the United States and an overall effectiveness rate of 72 percent in the United States said his vaccine is 95 percent effectiveand Moderna said his vaccine was 94.5 percent effective.
On the issue of effectiveness, Scott Clardy, assistant director for the Columbia / Boone County’s Department of Public Health and Human Services who is on the advisory committee, said he’s already hearing from residents approved under Tier 3, saying: “They don’t. I want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they know it’s less effective. ”
“If the goal is to open it up to Tier 3 because more vaccines will be available – which I think is great – we must all be on one page about how we are going to answer and respond to these concerns about it,” said Clardy.
Rural and urban lawmakers expressed frustration with the introduction of the state. say their residents are being left behind. From overwhelming demand to obstacles like lack of internet access, Residents across the state are still struggling to get access to the vaccine.
John Rizzo, chairman of the Senate Minority, D-Independence, told reporters Thursday that the state’s activation of the next stage should depend on how much vaccine gets into the state, stressing that residents from areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City shouldn’t have to travel to rural areas to find an available appointment.
“In my opinion, a lot depends on how much we can get in and out of the door with the delivery system,” said Rizzo, later adding, “I would deal with the dense populations first – not because I represent One – but because it’s a communicable disease and that makes sense. ”