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Missouri will have administered more than 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of this week, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday.
As with distribution of personal protective devices early in the pandemic, vaccine supply continues to be the limiting factor in how many doses are delivered into arms, he said during his weekly coronavirus update.
"We are committed to fairly allocating doses throughout the state and working with vaccinators to ensure efficient administration of the vaccine as quickly as possible," Parson said.
There have been issues with some health care providers not following federal and state guidelines for who is to receive the vaccines at this time. The state, he said, will vaccinate the most vulnerable people first — those 65 and older and those with health conditions that make them more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
"We are not going to allow people to administer however they want to administer," Parson said. "The guidelines are clear."
He warned that if the guidelines are not followed, the state would take other actions.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, later said it is in Missourians' DNA to care for other people and to be fair.
"We do get reports of people who are purposely — we're talking about vaccinators — deviating from our guidelines that are required by the federal government. They get a phone call," Williams said. "Yesterday, I called one and they confessed and I just explained to them very clearly that we are going to prioritize our most vulnerable."
Any deviation will be met with consequences, he said.
He did not give more details about the vaccinator, but said the state deals with deviations robustly.
Williams reiterated that reports of Missouri having received hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine that haven't been administered can be misleading.
He explained that about 780,000 had been shipped to Missouri (directly from the federal government to distributors). Once received, vaccinators have seven days to vaccinate patients.
"When I looked at it this morning, there were only 130,000 of that 780,000 that we could not account for — why they hadn't been vaccinated. Either they hadn't been vaccinated or they haven't been reported," Williams said.
So there's a number the state has been allotted, a number that has been shipped (and the state would not know where that is) and a number that has been received.
When it isn't in arms, it hasn't been vaccinated or hasn't been reported yet, Williams said.
Parson said the state received news this week that the federal government will increase Missouri's weekly Moderna vaccine allocation by 5 percent.
"I want to remind Missourians that this is a gradual and ongoing process," he said.
Data there showed Thursday that 22.6 percent of the state's population age 85 or older has received at least the first dose of the vaccine and 12.5 percent of Missourians ages 75-84 have received it, with 14.5 percent of Missourians ages 65-74 having received at least the first dose.
The site shows that 132,200 Missourians have received both doses. (Both Moderna and Pfizer have developed vaccines that require two doses.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will act through a new federal program to give pharmacies that have been identified (either Walmart or Health Mart independent pharmacies) to receive direct shipments of vaccines about Wednesday, Williams said. Those distributions will not come from the Missouri allotment of vaccines but through a federal program to try to reach under-served areas.
A list of those pharmacies is expected to be available Monday, Williams said.
People in those areas who are eligible to receive the vaccine should contact the pharmacies Wednesday to sign up.
It's still uncertain when Missouri will open its next tier of people to be eligible to receive the vaccinations. About 2 million Missourians who now qualify for the vaccine have not yet received it.
However, the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine is expected to begin shipping in early March, and the AstraZeneca vaccine in late March.
With four vaccines available, state health officials hope to move into the next tier in early to mid-April, Williams said.
"Our end game is that every Missourian that wants a vaccine gets one," Williams said. "We reasonably think that — based on things that Tony Fauci has said — that will be by June or July."