ST. LOUIS — Additional pharmacies in Missouri next week will receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday, providing more vaccination locations several days before thousands of essential workers become eligible to receive it.
Next week, 15% of the state’s vaccine allocation from the federal government will be supplied to 161 pharmacies in 84 counties “based on ability, location and population,” Parson said during a news conference in Jefferson City. “We are working to identify even more pharmacies, specifically targeting vulnerable populations and counties not yet represented.”
Thirty pharmacies in Region C, which encompasses a broad section of eastern Missouri, will receive vaccine doses, including 12 in St. Louis city and county, two in St. Charles County, six in Franklin County and three in Jefferson County.
St. Louis-area officials have struggled to meet demand for the vaccine as some rural counties have seen excess doses, leading some at-risk Missourians to drive for hours to seek appointments outside of urban areas.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson wrote a letter to Parson last month asking that vaccine distribution be allowed for CVS and Walgreens, which combined have more than 30 locations in the city.
Parson earlier Thursday visited a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Chesterfield and vaccination sites in St. Louis and St. Louis County, stopping to talk with newly vaccinated seniors, volunteers and Pfizer employees.
He said the state allotment of the vaccine will be done according to a county’s population. Of the vaccine coming to Region C, 68% of it will go to St. Louis County and city, Parson said.
“I think anytime you look at a major population like St. Louis … it’s going to take longer to get through the process simply because of the population,” Parson said after visiting Senior Living at Cambridge Heights in St. Louis. “And if you take into consideration what’s reported that people are going outside of the region to get the vaccine, then the numbers would actually be higher in this region because people are getting the vaccine from other areas that we don’t even have on the books.”
Parson said people over 65 and those with co-morbidities will continue to be vaccinated even as thousands of essential workers become eligible for the vaccine on March 15.
Parson acknowledged that there was more interest in receiving the vaccine in urban areas than in rural counties.
“Starting next week, we will begin transitioning mass vaccination teams to accommodate more events in Region A, which is the Kansas City area, and Region C, in the St. Louis region,” Parson said from Jefferson City. “Both mass and targeted vaccination events hosted by the states will begin utilizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as supplies allow. This will help increase the scale and efficiency of these events, as vaccination teams will not need to return for boosters.”
Missouri this week expects to receive 50,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 5,000 of which will be distributed in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, he said. Another 10,000 doses will go to mass vaccination events, and the remaining 35,000 will go to “providers across the state,” he said.
“This will allow local providers to determine the most appropriate use of the single-dose option in their communities,” Parson said.
The governor touted the decreasing coronavirus hospitalization rate, saying that “virus activity” has declined for the seventh straight week. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have fallen below 1,000 across the state “for the first time since September,” Parson said. Missouri’s seven-day positivity rate is at 4.5%, he said, and Missouri is currently the second lowest state in the U.S. for average daily cases.
“This is great news for Missouri and we believe the numbers will only continue to improve as more and more Missourians get vaccinated,” he said.
The state reported 467 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from 387 the day before. The seven-day average of new cases fell to 351, the lowest level since late June, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis.
Missouri health officials say 919,085 people have received a first dose of vaccine, or 15% of the state population. Nearly 482,000 have received a second dose.
Illinois reported 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, down from 2,104 the day before. The seven-day average of new cases fell to 1,719. Illinois reported 49 additional deaths due to the virus.
Annika Merrilees of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.