JEFFERSON CITY — In a week in which his administration has faced criticism for the pace of Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, Gov. Mike Parson took time Thursday to paint an optimistic portrait of the state’s continued vaccination efforts in the coming months.

Among the most notable announcements at the governor’s afternoon news conference came from Randall Williams, director of the state Health Department, who said he expects all Missouri reisdents who want to get a vaccine to be able to do so by this summer.

“Our endgame is every Missourian who wants a vaccine gets one. And we reasonably think based on things (Anthony) Fauci has said that that will be by June or July,” Williams said.

That projection comes on the heels of last month’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ranked Missouri last out of all 50 states in its vaccine rollout. Williams’ prediction comes in part from his expectations for continued availability and administration of vaccinations in the state, coupled with the expected arrivals of new vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in the coming months.

“My hope would be that we would be moving into Tier 3 of Phase 1B in early to mid-April and that we would get to Phase 3 by mid-May,” Williams said.

Parson and Williams cited issues with some vaccine administrators “purposefully deviating” from federal guidelines and giving doses to individuals outside of the at-risk groups currently eligible to receive them. While they did not elaborate on who the transgressors were or how many doses have been wrongfully administered, they said they were taking measures to ensure such missteps do not occur in the future.

“I understand, everybody wants a vaccine and people want to jump the line,” Parson said. “We have to be disciplined, but right now, with the supply that we have, we have to put it to the most vulnerable people that need it right now and the people at the highest risk.”

The governor also announced that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Missouri is down to 9.3% from a November high of 24.4% and that hospitalizations in the state have “significantly decreased.”

Parson said the major “limiting factor” in the state’s rollout thus far has been vaccine supply, though he also detailed a new partnership between the state and selected hospitals in each region of the state to provide additional support to vaccine distribution.

Those hospitals, which Parson said were selected based on “ability to rapidly administer vaccines,” will receive just over half of the state’s weekly vaccine allocations through the end of this month.

“We are hopeful that this partnership will provide the consistency needed for effective planning of high-volume vaccine clinics at the local levels,” Parson said.

Williams also announced a new CDC program that will make vaccines directly available to Walmart and Health Mart pharmacies in the state beginning next Thursday in an effort to reach underserved areas. The supplemental vaccines will be separate from Missouri’s federally established allotment of doses, and Williams said a list of participating pharmacies would be available Monday.

In non-COVID-related news, Parson also addressed his recent public spat with House leadership regarding his State of the State address, during which the governor wrote a letter to Republican lawmakers excoriating them for engaging in what he called a “purposeful and disgusting scheme to embarrass” him.

“We’re going to move forward,” Parson said. “I know (there’s) a lot of hype in the media about all the things between me and the Speaker (of the House). … Some of the stuff you guys were writing, I didn’t even know existed.”

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  • State Government reporter, spring 2020. I am a first-year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mokwb@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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