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Missourians Aren’t Showing Up For Second COVID-19 Vaccine Doses, Health Officials Say

Affinia Healthcare nurse Felicia Standifer extracts a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event for senior citizens at the Beloved Community United Methodist Church in south St. Louis on Jan. 23, 2021.
Kayla Drake
St. Louis Public Radio
Affinia Healthcare nurse Felicia Standifer extracts a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event for senior citizens at the Beloved Community United Methodist Church in south St. Louis on Jan. 23.

Many Missourians are not showing up for their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

In an internal video conference call with vaccine providers on Tuesday, a department spokesperson said people are frequently missing appointments, which is causing logistical issues for the state.

“That's becoming a bigger and bigger problem as folks who receive their first dose don't show up for their second dose,” said Ted Delicath, who spoke on the call to vaccine providers on behalf of the state health department. Delicath is a consultant from the McCrystal Group, which is working with the state to implement its vaccine rollout.

Delicath declined to specify how many second appointments have been missed. DHSS did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Doctors say people skipping second doses will jeopardize the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a nonprofit elderly advocacy group, said her organization wants to ensure long-term care residents understand the importance of receiving a second dose.

“It’s really important to get them as vaccinated as possible,” Moore said. “And you know what we’ve been hearing from the CDC and other experts is that that second shot is so important when it comes to actually getting your full immunity.”

If people miss their second vaccine doses, states are less likely to reach herd immunity, which could give the virus more time to mutate.

“If we don’t have the broad swaths of the community immunized, it’s going to take hold, and we’re going to be right back to the beginning of 2020,” Tim Wiemken, an associate professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University, said earlier this week.

Delicath said on the video call that the state plans to release more detailed guidance to providers this week. He said the department will be more transparent with vaccine providers about state dose allocations and orders.

Delicath also urged providers on the call to administer doses as fast as possible and to not reserve second doses. All doses should be administered within a week of receiving them, he said.

The meeting came days after reports that Missouri ranked last in the nation for vaccination rates per capita. As of Friday morning, the state is fourth to last, ahead of Idaho, Alabama and Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illinois ranks sixth from last.

Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday tweeted that the CDC rankings are "marginal and are being used to misinform Missourians that the state is falling short in vaccine administration." He then launched the state’s own vaccine dashboard.

In the Tuesday meeting, Delicath acknowledged the state’s low ranking and blamed it, in part, on vaccine providers not reporting accurate inventories to the state database.

“Unreported vaccinations, while they do count to the person who it helped to vaccinate, are part of the reason that we have such a low number in some of those national headlines,” Delicath said.

Nearly 6% of Missouri residents have received at least one dose of vaccine as of Friday, according to state data.

The low supply of vaccine is expected to last through February, Delicath said. The state estimates the federal government delivers around 76,000 doses a week of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine combined to the state. Vaccine providers are requesting double that.

Reporters Chad Davis and Sarah Fentem contributed to this article.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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