With over 280,000 on its waiting list at the end of last week, COVID vaccine availability to meet the demand continues to be an issue in the St. Louis area, however, St. Louis County announced more doses are coming from the state.
“We are pleased now to have a commitment from the state to provide St. Louis County with 3,000 doses per week of vaccine, and we’ll be getting our next shipment of vaccine to St. Louis County Dept. of Public Health on Tuesday,” County Executive Sam Page said during a media briefing held at a fire station in Affton, which is one of five vaccine locations set up in the county.
“This gives us the assurance we need to keep vaccinating folks in St. Louis County, along with our partners,” Page said. “In St. Louis County, our department has vaccinated 11,000 of our residents and those who work in St. Louis County, and we have given 1,100 second doses of the vaccine.”
Groups currently receiving the vaccine are 1A and 1B, tiers 1 and 2.
“When more vaccine is available, we will be able to open more sites and get even more vaccine into arms,” Page said.
The county’s health department is partnering with area fire districts in Eureka, Pattonville, Mehlville, Affton, and Richmond Heights, and with the St. Louis County Police Department Office of Emergency Management to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to about 1,000 residents and staff in group homes and other housing facilities that have not yet received vaccinations.
Missouri says more vaccine is on its way
The state of Missouri promised more doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the weeks ahead during a virtual chat with reporters on Wednesday. Moderna is expected to supply an additional 60,000 doses of its vaccine.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri Dept. Health and Senior Services, Adam Crumbliss, director of Community and Public Health at DSSS, along with Robert Knodell, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Mike Parson, addressed media questions emailed in advance or submitted via chat during the session on Feb. 10.
In response to the criticism that the state has been getting vaccine out to the rural areas rather than the urban areas, where the state’s largest populations have been hardest hit by illness and deaths from COVID-19, they said rural areas have a lot of elderly, and urban top 50 hospital systems got the bulk of earlier vaccine supply (which went to health care workers, not other vulnerable populations). Urban hospitals also have been taking care of rural COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.
Knodell said COVID vaccines from the feds will go to retail pharmacy chains, including Walmart and Healthmart, beginning Feb. 12 and other chains will be added.
FQHCs are expecting more vaccine
Knodell said federally-qualified health centers across the state are reportedly getting more COVID vaccine shipments from the federal government, although the quantity and locations were not yet known.
“They will be sending a dedicated allocation to FQHCs across the state to reach vulnerable populations and medically underserved communities and regions,” Knodell said. “That will interface a little bit with our state allocation to FQHCs.”
Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers reports it was able to vaccinate its frontline healthcare workers after receiving its first shipment of COVID vaccine early last week. “We are prepared to begin providing vaccines to our broader underserved community, according to the state approved eligibility standards, next week as soon as we receive additional promised doses,” People’s CEO Dwayne Butler said.
National Guard vaccinates seniors in the St. Louis area
Retired healthcare workers, medical students and the National Guard have been deployed by the state to administer COVID vaccines to individuals. On Thursday, National Guard members vaccinated senior citizens at four centers identified by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
“The Urban League was recruited by the Governor's office to partner with the Missouri National Guard to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations in areas in St. Louis that have had disproportionate impact and populations that are most vulnerable,” Patricia Washington, V.P. of Communications at ULSTL said. “We immediately identified four centers. The centers selected residents based on strict criteria including being over 65 and in the priority tiers. The National Guard provided staff to help set up the sites, deliver the vaccine and administer the shots. We have 500 initial doses of the Moderna vaccine. We will return to the centers in 28 days to give the second shot.”
St. Louis first responders get second vaccine dose
First responders in the city of St. Louis who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks ago received their second dose on Friday, Feb. 12. St. Louis residents are highly encouraged to sign up online at stlouis-mo.gov/covid-19/vaccine. If they do not have internet access, they should contact the Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline at 314-657-1499.
Healthcare.gov reopens for health insurance signups
One of Pres. Joe Biden’s executive orders has opened a 2021 Special Enrollment Period to sign up for individuals and families to sign up for health insurance at Healthcare.gov in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that the COVID-19 emergency presents exceptional circumstances for consumers in accessing health insurance and will provide a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families to apply and enroll in the coverage they need.” The additional enrollment period begins Feb. 15 through May 15, 2021. Find out more at Healthcare.gov.
St. Louis County has ‘GrandPads’ to help seniors stay connected
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, “GrandPads” were introduced for older adults in St. Louis County. The St. Louis County Library is expanding its Digital Equity Initiative to help underserved older adults access technology and stay connected during this COVID-19 pandemic. The electronic tablets are pre-loaded with data, built in cellular service and wireless internet and are described as being easy to use to help seniors stay connected to loved ones through email, video and online. They are targeting residents age 75 and older but senior adults under that age may apply as well. And if you get one, it is free, at least for the first year, because the one-year subscription is paid for through CARES Act funds given to the library. More details can be found, along with eligibility requirements on the library’s website . Apply by February 28 athttps://www.slcl.org/using-the-library/grandpads.
Medical + cloth double masking increases protection to 92 percent
In its weekly Mortality and Morbidity report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says double masking can be 92 percent effective in blocking respiratory aerosols reduce exposure to and slow the spread of COVID-19. A double mask would be a surgical mask with a cloth covering over top, that has a snug fit with no gaps that allows air to escape. The CDC said cloth and medical procedure masks can be more effective when they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent leakage of air around the masks’ edges. “The combination of the cloth mask covering the medical procedure mask (double mask) blocked 92.5 percent of the cough particles,” the MMWR report stated. However, the CDC says do not double mask two disposable masks, and do not wear an additional covering over N95 masks because they are respirators that fit more tightly than cloth and medical masks. Find out more athttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/effective-masks.html.