Virus Outbreak J J Vaccine

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two (Johnson & Johnson via AP)

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced Thursday a new statewide transportation guide to help people travel to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As part of the program, called “Get a Ride,” OATS Transit will provide free vaccination transportation to anyone in their service areas.

People with vaccine appointments can schedule a ride with Franklin County OATS at 636-583-1125, Jefferson County OATS at 636-933-9380, Warren County OATS at 660-415-0901 or get more information on other transportation providers at covidvaccine.mo.gov/ride.

Jill Stedem, administrative and development director for OATS, told The Missourian the staff will work to accommodate anyone who needs transportation to their vaccine appointment. She said the Jefferson County OATS took five busloads of sheltered workshop staffers to get vaccinated recently, and in other counties OATS and the health departments have coordinated to allow nurses to administer the vaccine on the bus for people with mobility challenges.

“The faster people get vaccinated, the faster we will return to our regular life,” Stedem said. “I hope a number of people will take this opportunity to get the vaccine. Getting vaccinated protects everyone.”

OATS is using CARES Act funding to cover the cost of additional staff hours and services needed to transport people, as Stedem said the service is expecting its usage rates to increase with the “Get a Ride” program.

Statewide, OATS has provided more than 480 trips to vaccination sites since March 1, according to OATS Transit Executive Director Dorothy Yeager.

“OATS is happy to be able to provide transportation to vaccination sites for individuals living in rural areas,” Yeager said in a press release.

OATS users are strongly encouraged to make their vaccination appointments in the same county where they reside, Stedem said.

OATS Transit is a nonprofit providing low-cost transportation in the 87 counties it serves in Missouri. Although initially started for older adults and people with disabilities, OATS in Franklin County has been open to people of all ages for several years. It is a partner of the Franklin County Area United Way.

A complete list of routes and times is available at oatstransit.org/franklin.