Online COVID Vaccine Sign-Ups Help St. Louis-Area Counties Plan Dose Distribution
Updated at 9:36 a.m. with new pre-registration numbers from St. Louis County
Vaccine pre-registration websites, brought online last week by several county health departments in the St. Louis area, will be key tools in the enormous task of scheduling and administering coronavirus vaccinations to residents, health officials say.
The online forms collect residents’ names, contact information and details about their health risks. County health officials will use that information to notify people by email or phone when they are eligible to receive a vaccination.
“Getting the vaccine was a giant step forward,” said Amy Yeager, director of community health at Madison County Health Department. “Now getting it into the arms of people is another giant step forward.”
St. Louis County, which had received more than 172,000 applications as of Monday, plans to open a hotline soon for people without internet access, a county spokesperson said.
The pre-registration data also will help health departments decide where to place vaccine clinics. Officials say they plan to operate numerous locations in low-income areas, where residents often have worse health outcomes.
Vaccinations have been underway for a month now in Missouri and Illinois. In Missouri, about one-third of health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff have received their first vaccine dose, as of last week. Missouri officials say the state will have enough doses to vaccinate all health care workers by the end of the month.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced last week that people over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses will be eligible to receive a vaccine starting Monday. Around 2.5 million Missourians are in this group, according to the state.
Starting Jan. 25, Illinois will expand vaccination access to people over 65, those with chronic illnesses and front-line essential workers, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced. The Illinois Department of Public Health is allowing less populated counties to move forward with vaccinations to those people now, if they have extra doses.
Missouri does not yet have a steady enough supply of vaccine doses to administer shots to those over 65 and people with chronic illnesses, health officials say.
“There's a lot of things that are outside of our control,” said Jefferson County Health Department Director Kelley Vollmar. “As vaccinators we can be prepared and trained and have everything ready. But until we can get that vaccine in our hands, we're in hold mode.”
Parson said he expects the federal government to significantly increase vaccine shipments in coming weeks.
As of Friday, Jefferson County, Franklin County and St. Louis health departments had not yet received doses of the vaccine. County health officials said most counties in the U.S. are struggling to acquire enough doses to meet demand.
“St. Louis County faces the same obstacle that the rest of the country faces, which is the short supply of vaccine,” said St. Louis County Health Department spokesperson Christopher Ave.
Residents eligible to receive a vaccine aren’t restricted to receiving doses from their county’s health department. They can also travel to other counties. St. Charles and St. Louis counties will accept pre-registration forms from nonresidents, according to spokespeople from those counties.
St. Louis-area residents can also receive vaccines from more than 300 providers identified on an interactive map built by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The providers include health clinics, hospitals and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS.
“If a person has a chance to be vaccinated through a pharmacy, through their employer, through a hospital, through another connection to it, there's no reason to wait for the county,” Ave said.
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