The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered to Missourians will likely come in December, according to Gov. Mike Parson.
The governor spoke to The Missourian following his Wednesday afternoon tour of Melton Machine & Control Co.’s new headquarters.
“I think the main thing for everyday people (to understand) is that we are going to try get those essential workers, first,” Parson said. Doctors, nurses and long-term care facility staff are among the workers the state plans to offer the vaccine to first, with the vaccine likely becoming available to the general public in February or March 2021.
The goal of administering the COVID-19 vaccine to these essential workers, Parson said, is to “make the environment safer, for more people to be able to return to the workforce and to continue to take care of those who have the virus.”
The state’s 105-page COVID-19 Vaccination Implementation Plan, which was released this week and was vetted by numerous health care organizations, including BJC HealthCare and state agencies, outlines the three phases the state will use to administer the vaccine.
Phase I is broken into two segments.
The first segment, which Parson anticipates to begin in December, would offer the vaccine to long-term care facility staff and other health care workers, including inpatient and outpatient health care workers. The second segment would see the state partnering with local pharmacies to provide on-site vaccination clinics at the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. These clinics would be open to any staff, who were not vaccinated in the first segment, and to the residents of the facility.
During Phase II, Missourians who do not work in health care would be able to receive the vaccine, especially if they are at an “increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19,” including those with pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible to “severe outcomes.”
Obesity, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension and chronic heart disease are associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, according to the state. Researchers have found that nearly 90 percent of hospitalized adults had at least one high-risk medical condition, and more than 60 percent had three or more.
Adults who are 65 years and older represent 80 percent of the COVID-19 deaths and have the highest cumulative rate of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations.
Those who work in manufacturing or in businesses deemed “critical to national security” also are expected to receive the vaccine in Phase II, as are racial and ethnic minority groups that have statistically experienced the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita. Also included in Phase II are Missouri’s homeless populations and people who live and work in congregate settings, such as the state’s prison system, group homes, detention centers and similar facilities.
Researchers have found that racial and ethnic minority groups account for 60 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 50 percent of the COVID-19-reported fatalities despite only representing 16.04 percent of the state’s general population.
While in the second phase, state officials will begin preparing to offer the vaccine to the general public depending on available vaccine quantities, according to the implementation plan.
During Phase III, the state will rely on rural health clinics, private health care providers and pharmacies to distribute the vaccine to most adult Missourians who have not yet received the vaccine.
Parson is encouraging all Missourians to not grow weary of the pandemic and to wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“I think you’ve got a virus fatigue going on out there. There’s been so much political hype about it. We need to stop with the political side of things and really focus on what it is that matters. ... It is unfortunate the mask has become such a political issue,” he said.
“The question is, ‘Are you going to wear the mask?’ I need you to do that. I need you to do the social distancing. I need you to make sure that on those large social gatherings, we don’t have any for the next four weeks. The next four weeks are a crucial time here in the state of Missouri,” Parson said.
Parson said rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state make these next four weeks crucial.
“October was the highest month (of COVID-19 cases) we have had since March. In the first two weeks of November, we have matched October’s numbers as a state,” said Parson, who added that he believes it makes sense for local leaders in the regions where COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing to implement a mask mandate even though it may be difficult to enforce.
Parson said, “I support them on whatever decisions they make.”