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Missouri vaccination teams not ready for first 50,000 doses, but state will be, officials say

Missouri vaccination teams not ready for first 50,000 doses, but state will be, officials say

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Key teams involved in Missouri’s plan to distribute the coronavirus vaccine will not be in place if the first batch of 50,000 doses arrive as expected in less than three weeks, but officials said it would not affect distribution of the initial vaccinations.

Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, said Missouri has been promised the 50,000 doses, which will be enough for 25,000 people. Two doses are required for the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization is expected to be approved by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory committee, which is scheduled to meet Dec. 10.

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to the U.S. government’s effort to develop coronavirus vaccines, told CNN Sunday that if approved, the first vaccine doses could be shipped and administered on Dec. 11 or 12. Pfizer also told reporters Tuesday that 6.4 million doses would be shipping out in mid-December, if approved.

The vaccine will go to all 50 states, eight territories and six major population centers, apportioned by population, The New York Times reported.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one of two in development that preliminary studies have shown to be as much as 95% effective.

Slaoui said Moderna’s vaccine would be considered by the vaccine panel on Dec. 17.

Dec. 10 is also the deadline for contractors to apply to be one of Missouri’s nine regional vaccination support teams, or VSTs. The teams are supposed to “establish relationships with local health authorities and health care organizations,” identify needs of “critical infrastructure workforce” including food manufacturing plants, schools, long-term care facilities and first responders, and establish places to dispense the vaccine. They are also supposed to identify “at-risk communities” so they can increase vaccination rate there, the state plan says.

Cox said Wednesday that Regional Implementation Teams, which coordinate with state implementation teams, are also not formed yet. Those teams include the VST as well as someone from the state Bureau of Immunizations, local health care providers and local community organizations, according to the state’s plan to distribute the virus.

The initial vaccine doses will go first to staff at long-term care facilities and health care workers exposed to patients or infectious materials, per Phase 1A of the state’s plan. The general public will likely not be able to get in line for months, experts say.

The state’s plan estimates that there are 425,000 health care workers in Missouri, though not all would fall under Phase 1A definitions.

In Phase 1B, residents of long-term care facilities, a population hit hard by the virus, will be vaccinated. Phase 2 includes residents at higher risk of “acquiring or transmitting COVID-19,” including “racial and ethnic minority groups, housing-insecure individuals, people living and working in congregate settings, and other groups and other communities at higher risk of severe outcomes,” the plan says. That phase also includes staff of “manufacturing facilities identified as critical infrastructure or critical to national security.”

The plan estimates there are 1 million Missouri residents 65 or older, and nearly 1.3 million adults with high-risk conditions.

A state vaccine information website unveiled this week, places health care workers, essential workers and high risk populations in Phase 1, with all Missouri residents in Phase 2.

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