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Missouri Gov. Parson: More COVID-19 Vaccine Events Coming To St. Louis, Kansas City

Pharmacy Tech Madison Wilmes fills syringes with the coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital on March 4, 2021.
Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
Pharmacy Tech Madison Wilmes fills syringes with the coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital on Thursday.

More coronavirus vaccination events are coming to St. Louis and Kansas City starting next week, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday.

A higher percentage of people are interested in receiving the vaccine in urban centers than in rural areas, Parson said. Because of that difference in demand, more mass vaccination events will be moved to the state’s two largest metropolitan areas.

Missouri distributes coronavirus vaccines to nine regions statewide proportionately based on population. If a region has 40% of the state’s population, it receives 40% of the state’s allotted vaccine amount.

Critics of the governor said that formula shortchanges urban areas. Some rural mass vaccination events have been left with doses left over, as supply for the shots exceeds demand.

But during a visit to Christian Hospital in north St. Louis County on Thursday morning, Parson said he had no plans to change the way the vaccine is allocated.

“Sometimes we talk about 100 left over here or there. I think the reality is, we’re going to stay with the same philosophy we had in October,” he said. “For the urban areas we know because the population is much larger, it’s just going to take much longer to do.”

More than 2 million people are eligible to receive the vaccine in Missouri. On March 15, more than 500,000 Missourians who work as teachers, government employees and other essential workers will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

A pharmacist reconstitutes a bottle of coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital in St. Louis on March 4, 2021.
Sarah Fentem
A pharmacist reconstitutes a bottle of coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital in St. Louis on Thursday.

Parson admitted the state mishandled one vaccination event in Putnam County in northern Missouri last month. At that event, more than half of the more than 2,000 doses allocated went unused. Most were redistributed, but the event organizers needed to throw more than 100 doses away.

“That site should have never happened the way the way it did,” Parson said. “That’s the bottom line. I own that. It shouldn’t have happened, and we have to do a better job than that. But by far, the vast majority of the mass vaccinations we’re doing are going as planned.”

Parson denied that the urban regions in the state were being shortchanged on doses, but he said people who live in rural areas are less likely to want the vaccine.

The governor also accused the federal government of shortchanging the state of vaccine doses compared with neighboring states.

The state will not be receiving doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine until late this month, he said. That vaccine only requires one dose and will make vaccinating people faster and easier, he said.

More mass vaccination events will be scheduled in St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas later this month, Parson said. Those events will be exclusively using the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Even with those setbacks, the governor expects everyone in Missouri who wants a vaccine to be able to get one later this spring.

“We’re going to have to continue to work hard, 30 to 40 days, until we turn the corner,” Parson said.

About 250,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine were given to Missourians in the past week, he said. Close to 15% of the state's population has received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Christian Hospital is still working on vaccinating people in the most at-risk categories, officials said Thursday. The hospital's clinic is giving approximately 700 shots a day. Once the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses make their way to St. Louis, they expect to make more appointments.

Christian Hospital President Rich Stevens said he's encouraged that so many people are waiting for the vaccine. It means interest and trust levels are high.

"We appreciate that they want to get the vaccine because we know there's some people that don't," he said. "We need to be patient."

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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