Local agencies prepare for Phase 1B of the statewide vaccination plan

    Area health agencies have begun vaccinations of area frontline workers for COVID-19 and additional vaccinations are also soon to begin as the state has announced activation of Phase 1B of Missouri’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Local pharmacies have also requested vaccinations and are taking online applications from people who would like to be vaccinated.

    Sinks Pharmacy, which has locations in Rolla, Vienna, Belle, St. Clair, Cuba, and Steelville, announced on January 15 it is accepting online applications for are residents wanting to be added to the list for vaccinations. While pharmacies currently do not have the COVID-19 vaccine, yet, the list will allow residents to submit their name and information and the pharmacy will call to set up an appointment once the vaccine becomes available. Those interested can visit www.sinkspharmacy.com to do so.
    Phelps Health held its first vaccination clinic in Rolla on Monday at the Delbert Day Cancer Institute for individuals in Phase 1A and Tier 1 of Phase 1B. Vaccines were given on a first-come, first-served basis, with availability based on Phelps Health’s allotment from federal partners.
    Forest City Health Mart Pharmacy in St. James has requested to receive vaccine for Phase 1B, but was denied and will not participate until later in the plan, possibly in March or April, according to pharmacist Tim Wilson.
    The Phelps-Maries County Health Department said vaccine supply is extremely limited for now. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services stated, “The state of Missouri is experiencing an exceptionally limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Before contacting a vaccinator, please understand that many vaccinators are still awaiting supplies from the federal government.”
    Under the Missouri COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, Phase 1A addresses patient facing frontline workers, such as healthcare workers and EMS, along with long-term care facility staff and residents. Tier 1 of Phase 1B includes public health administrators and staff, law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency management, public works, and emergency services.
    Governor Mike Parson announced last week Missouri activated Phase 1B- Tier 1 of the plan. “Beginning the activation of Phase 1B is all about saving lives and protecting those most vulnerable to exposure and illness from this virus,” Parson said. “We are looking forward to increased vaccine supply in the coming weeks as supply is the leading factor that dictates our movement through our plan. The more supply we received, the quicker we can reach our goal of making vaccines available to every Missourian who wants one.”
    Phase 1B-Tier 1 was active on January 14, with 1B-Tier 2 activated on January 18. Phase 1B-Tier 2 will focus on protecting those at increased risk for severe illness, such as individuals aged 65 and older, or adults with “cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome, heart conditions, a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, or Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus,” a press release from the Governor’s office explained.
    “We recognize and appreciate that there are a variety of individuals on the frontlines who have a greater risk of exposure each day they go to work,” Parson said. We are grateful for the tireless and selfless efforts of our health care providers and first responders who risk their own safety to protect the health and well-being of Missourians.”
    While Phase 1B was activated on Monday, there is currently not enough supply for everyone included in those groups. As additional supply arrives, more vaccine will be introduced to the community and will allow vaccinator and organizations to continue planning for future tiers.
    Individuals in Phase 1A and Phase 1B are encouraged to work through their employer or association to access the vaccine. Individuals in Phase 1B-Tier 2 should contact their local pharmacy or health care provider or visit MOStopsCovid.com to learn when vaccines may be available and how to receive them.
    “We know one of the most common questions among Missourians right now is when it will be their turn to be vaccinated, and we are greatly encouraged by the interest in the vaccines from the public,” Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams said. “Each day, our team is monitoring the amount of vaccine available and making sure it is distributed so that people can receive the vaccine as quickly as possible. We are so thankful to our hundreds of clinical partners throughout the state who are making this happen.”
    According to the statement, at least 27 percent of Phase 1A has received the first dose of the vaccine, including residents and staff of long-term care facilities and health care workers. Those in Phase 1A will continue to be vaccinated as supply allows.
    Since Missouri received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines last month, more than 160,000 individuals have received the initial dose, according to the Governor’s office, and more than 22,000 have now been fully vaccinated with their second dose of the two-dose series.