The long awaited release of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide happened in December, just in time to be considered a holiday gift. But as was the case with so many holiday gifts in 2020, delivery details for some recipients are sketchy and receipt may be delayed.
Per the state’s vaccine rollout plan, the first Missourians to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will be long-term care facility residents and staff along with healthcare personnel and staff who may have direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and are unable to work from home. Entities in that category began receiving and administering the vaccine to their staff and residents in mid-December. Examples of those entities include area hospital networks that are vaccinating members of their staffs and local pharmacies participating in the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program that are vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care facilities.
According to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, as of Jan. 7, Missouri has administered more than 113,000 doses of vaccine. This number does not include the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program.
On Dec. 22, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health announced that it had received 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine. According to St. Charles County Department of Public Health Public Information Officer Doug Bolnick, all of the initial doses received have either been administered or have been scheduled for administration. Among those receiving their first dose are nurses in area schools and paramedics with the county ambulance district.
As of Jan. 7, the health department had administered vaccine or scheduled appointments for 85 school nurses working in St. Charles County schools.
Kyle Gaines, director of community relations at St. Charles County Ambulance District, said 83 doses also were administered to SCCAD employees, all front line paramedics. An 84th SCCAD employee received his vaccination through his employment at a local hospital, where he works per diem as a registered emergency room nurse. The distribution, Gaines said, did not meet the total number of doses needed for Phase 1A eligible SCCAD employees.
“Our total staff is about 275 between full- and part-time, and while not everyone is opting to take the vaccine, the majority are. I think everyone, not just our team, is anxious to get vaccinated so we can get back to a more normal way of life,” Gaines said.
Bolnick said individuals who either live or work in St. Charles County may receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the health department when the vaccine becomes available and their phased category becomes eligible for vaccination.
He said, “We have asked the state, but have not received information on when or how much vaccine we will be receiving. We do expect the second dose for administration to those individuals who received the first dose to arrive in the recommended time frame.”
The Moderna vaccine is administered in two doses, issued four weeks apart.
Getting the vaccine to everyone – all Missourians who choose to be vaccinated – could take the entire first half of 2021.
The rollout will occur in three phases, with Phase 1 taking place in two parts. Phase 1A is taking place now. Phase 1B includes high risk populations, first responders and essential workers. State officials are predicting that Phase 1B will begin next month. Phase 2 is targeted to populations, who are at increased risk (prisoners, homeless, etc.). Phase 3 is all remaining Missouri residents.
“We are working diligently to distribute vaccine as it becomes available to us and will continue to do so until they are given to all who want them,” Demetrius Cianci-Chapman, director of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health, explained. “Staff in the department are accustomed to distributing vaccines, whether it be for influenza or other communicable diseases, so this process is not new to us. We are in contact with the state on a daily basis to get answers to the questions we need and that our community wants. We will continue to disseminate that information as it becomes available.”
Some of that information includes data about the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and cost. According to public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine cannot give a recipient COVID-19 because it does not contain the live virus. Clinical trials have shown it to be 95% effective. On its website, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, states that the COVID-19 vaccination is to be available free to all Missourians, including those without insurance.
“No person can be billed for the COVID-19 vaccine,” the website states. “Vaccination providers may charge an administration fee to insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, if applicable in your situation. Uninsured Missourians will be able to receive the vaccination regardless of their health insurance status.”
What is not known yet is how long that protection will last. Ongoing clinical trials are seeking to answer that question.
And, as for getting back to a “normal way of life,” Department of Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci Chapman cautioned, “While the Moderna vaccine has shown 95% effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 during its clinical trial, we need to remember that this is just one part of a combination of tools available to stop the pandemic. Even after being vaccinated, we all must continue to wear masks, social distance, limit contacts and stay home when sick.”
Covidvaccine.mo.gov has additional information about the vaccination.