Dr. Randall Williams

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, on Dec. 4, outlined to reporters how coronavirus vaccines would be distributed in the state.

The state of Missouri is accepting guidance provided last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on prioritizing who should get coronavirus vaccinations first, once approved for use by the FDA. 

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, last week held a webinar for reporters to describe how vaccines from two makers, Pfizer and Moderna, would be distributed. 

He said he expects Missouri will receive 339,775 doses for the initial vaccination against the virus, also known as COVID-19, to distribute by the end of December.

“With that amount alone, we should be able to move through all of our long-term care facility residents, staff and health care providers.” Williams said. “We estimate that number is about 350,000 in Missouri.”

He said that’s about 58,000 long-term care residents and 70,000 staff who take care of them, 15,000 physicians, 6,000 medical students and 130,000 nurses.

“So, when you look at the universe of nurses, doctors, health care providers, and long-term care facility residents and staff, that adds up to about 350,000. So, we have enough vaccines to cover them, just in the month of December.

CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff, Williams said. 

“We’re doing that through a contract with the CDC and Walgreens and CVS, that they are taking that on,” he said. “That vaccine will be shipped directly, and Walgreens and CVS will go out into those institutions. They’ve taken that on, using their employees to vaccinate [people at] our 1,300 long-term care facilities.” 

He said the Phase 1A, first priority group includes clergy members who go into hospitals.

Secret storage sites

Anyone in a hospital — housekeeping — is included as a forward-facing health care worker. It’s not just doctors or physicians.”

For security reasons, Williams would not say where the vaccines will be stored, but they will be geographically distributed throughout Missouri in locations that can store the vaccine at -94 degrees.

“I cannot identify those sites,” Williams said, because of reports of potential cyberattacks from other countries who could try to hack into the cold storage tracking sites.

“We’ve been asked not to share those, and those will be shared when the vaccine is delivered.”

Moderna’s two vaccine doses will be given 28 days apart;Pfizer's two vaccine doses will be given 21 days apart. There will be no switching between the two brands. 

Williams said Moderna’s vaccine will work better in more rural areas because it can be stored in  egular freezer temperatures. After Walgreens and CVS gets their vaccines, he said 105,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine will head to other areas of the state around Dec. 21.

“We’re pushing that out to all the other hospitals in Missouri — Hannibal, St. Joes, Joplin, Sedalia — because it’s stored in a regular freezer at 4 below zero,” Williams said. “They’re very happy they are getting that because it’s easier for them to use.”

Of the initial Phase 1A priority group of 350,000,  state officials expect them to get their initial shots in December or early January with the second booster shot in January or early February.

Phase 1B covers 3 million essential workers in Missouri, which includes first responders, teachers, defense workers, child-care workers.

“And at some time in that process, we think we’ll have two more vaccines, the AstraZeneca and the J&J. Now, they are a different platform ...the AstraZeneca and the J&J are vector vaccines. They’re introduced in the body through an adenovirus — a cousin of coronavirus.

“And the J&J, at this point, is a one-dose vaccine at normal refrigeration. But there is talk that they may be going to two shots as well.”

Williams said the vaccines will be shipped directly to health-care providers. Logistically, Williams said the National Guard services can be extended through the end of March.

“They’ve been such a tremendous help with our testing ... they have such a positive attitude, incredibly efficient,” he said.

Mass vaccinations

By late spring, Williams said the general population in Missouri would begin to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We fully expect by May 1, we’ll be moving to that.  And that will involve very much mass vaccinations — that will be gymnasiums, drive-through clinics, doctors, pharmacies, FQHCs (federally qualified health centers,” Williams said. 

“We feel like, by July or August, we will be able to vaccinate anyone in Missouri who wants a vaccine.”

Lisa Cox, a spokesperson for DHSS, said people “cannot be denied a vaccine if they cannot afford the administrative fee or if they don’t have insurance.” She said providers can charge a fee under $25 to administer the shot. 

Williams said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, is working to get funding for covering administrative costs.

“One of the proposals Sen. Blunt and I talked about it with the governor would bring $66 million to Missouri specifically for the implementation of the vaccine process — the local health departments, those free clinics, those drive in clinics, those gymnasium clinics.”

The state has set up a website to answer questions about the vaccines. For more information, visit http://mostopscovid.com.

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