On Saturday, Missouri passed the milestone for 1 million administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release from the Missouri Hospital Association.
The total includes nearly 700,000 Missouri residents who have received an initial dose of the vaccine and more than 300,000 who have received the booster, according to the release.
Despite the effects of the weather, which delayed vaccine delivery for scheduled events throughout the week, Missouri vaccinators are continuing to increase shots in arms statewide, according to a news release.
“Gov. Parson’s partnership with the state’s hospitals remains strong,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA president and CEO. “His establishment of the High Throughput Health Care vaccinator category has allowed hospitals to have an improved line of sight on the volume and timing of vaccine delivery, which is essential to build out the systems to deliver vaccine at scale.”
The HTHC vaccinator category was established when the administration opened to Phase 1B, Tier 2, eligibility. These hospital-centered vaccinators are located in every region of the state and were identified by their capacity to vaccinate more than 5,000 Missouri residents per week, according to the news release.
“In the St. Louis metro area, the hospital community has worked closely together throughout the pandemic and have continued our collaboration with others in establishing quick and convenient vaccination opportunities,” said Laura S. Kaiser, president and CEO of SSM Health and a member of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force. “Gov. Parson and his administration’s work to bring more doses to the state has been essential to our planning efforts and the successful implementation of these clinics.”
Parson’s goal with the HTHC program was to distribute the vaccine rapidly statewide, while providing hospitals and their local partners a defined volume of the vaccine with certainty in delivery. Non-HTHC hospitals are working independently and with other vaccinators, including local public health authorities, federally qualified health clinics and others to coordinate vaccination events, according to the release.
“Hospitals of all sizes have a role in getting vaccine into arms,” said Dan McKinney, administrator of Hermann Area District Hospital. “Many rural communities are older and have a higher rate of health conditions that lead to eligibility under the current tier. We’ve coordinated with other hospitals and vaccinators throughout the region to maximize the volume of inoculations and increase the convenience for rural Missourians.”
Polling in January found that only 58% of Missourians were very or somewhat likely to immediately seek the vaccine when it became available to the public. Vaccine hesitancy was considered a potential challenge when initially rolled out. The polling also found that Missourians statewide had extraordinary confidence, at 84%, in their own doctor or health care provider when it came to vaccination efforts. That’s one of the reasons that the support of hospital clinical staff to administer vaccines at Missouri National Guard mass vaccination events is so important. And, it’s why clinicians and hospitals are working hard to reach populations, including communities of color. Hospitals are partnering individually and statewide with coalitions to break down barriers to confidence in vaccination, according to the news release.
“We’re working hard collaboratively throughout the Kansas City metro to extend our reach into urban and at-risk communities, while reaching out to suburban and exurban populations,” said Stephen L. Reintjes Sr., president and CEO of North Kansas City Hospital. “Through the high throughput program, we are learning how to implement vaccination clinics on a large scale, and we’re building the partnerships to establish events in communities throughout the region.”
In the coming weeks, it is likely that the volume of the two current vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will expand and that a single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will be approved for emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the news release. As supply catches up with demand, hospitals are positioning to expand their vaccination efforts. Missourians can check for eligibility, enroll for vaccine and understand the status of vaccination in the state at MoStopsCovid.com.
“The HTHC partnership with the state has been essential to building vaccination to 1 million doses,” Kuhn said. “We are grateful for Gov. Parson’s leadership. When we increase vaccine availability and the state is able to engage all hospitals fully, we’ll make rapid progress toward the vaccination levels we need to achieve ‘herd immunity’ for full recovery.”
The Missouri Hospital Association is a not-for-profit association in Jefferson City that represents 140 Missouri hospitals.