Gov. Mike Parson gives the state of Missouri good marks for its initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Political leaders can boast impressive progress. Thanks to both Operation Warp Speed and prior scientific advances, vaccines were tested for safety and approved for emergency use in record time.
As of Jan. 13, more than 161,000 doses have been given in Missouri. That amounts to 2,600 for every 100,000 people in the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online dashboard. Parson said the state hopes to complete Phase 1A of distribution to health workers and nursing home residents by the end of the month.
But the vaccine rollout has been far from perfect. A news release from state Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, paints the picture of limited supply, poor communication and erratic shipment projections at the federal level.
The state receives one-week advance notice of shipments that are sent directly to those that have enrolled to become a vaccinator. Supplies do not go to the Missouri Department of Health. There are reports of providers expecting the Moderna vaccine and getting the Pfizer one instead, a significant change in terms of storage needs.
“There is an exceptionally limited supply available in Missouri at this time, and thousands of health care workers across the state are still in need of vaccination,” Black’s office said in the release. “Supply has far exceeded demand.”
He said the Department of Health is continuing to work with community providers to establish efficient networks for distributing vaccines to those outside a hospital system.
Efficiency is a key measure and one where the state and local communities, so far, appear to fall behind others in the country. The CDC dashboard shows that of 526,455 vaccines shipped in Missouri, only 161,784 were distributed to patients as of Jan. 13. That’s a rate of 30%, the lowest in 12 Midwestern states that surround Missouri. The rate of vaccine delivery to patients was 61% in North Dakota, 57% in South Dakota, 49% in Texas, 42% in Iowa and 38% in Illinois. Kansas was only slightly better than Missouri, at 32%.
All of this should give pause to those who cheer the federal government’s new push to dump all supplies on states as soon as possible, with the goal of mass vaccination. A White House report recommends a speedy pivot to rapid immunization of those over 65 years of age, but these numbers suggest that many states, particularly Missouri, need to do more to administer doses at the local level.
The St. Joseph Health Department made its first push recently. That’s good news, because the worst scenario is for the vaccine to be sitting on a shelf or freezer somewhere as the expiration date draws near.