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St. Louis providers speed up vaccine process, but state projects far fewer doses available next week

St. Louis providers speed up vaccine process, but state projects far fewer doses available next week

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BJC begins vaccinating frontline caregivers

A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine sits awaiting the next recipient on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, at the Washington University School of Medicine campus in St. Louis as BJC began the first round of vaccinations for frontline health care workers. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Area health care providers, expecting plenty of COVID-19 vaccine, are loosening vaccination rules, speeding up the process for residents — even as the state on Tuesday released far lower estimates for incoming doses next week.

On a call with health care providers Tuesday afternoon, state officials projected more than 350,000 fewer doses during the week of April 12, a dip of almost 70%: 84,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine instead of 245,000; 62,000 of Moderna instead of 175,000, and about 10,500 of Johnson & Johnson instead of 88,500.

At the same time, at least three local systems, from St. Louis to Jefferson County, said this week that they would either take eligible walk-ins or would allow anyone eligible to set up an appointment. None said on Tuesday they would take all comers.

But on Friday, the state is expected to open up eligibility to Phase 3, which includes all Missourians age 16 and older. According to state estimates, that means 1.1 million will become eligible, for a total of 4.5 million.

Over the course of Phase 1, vaccinations began for health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, first responders, adults 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions, and employees in sectors like K-12 education, food and agriculture, water, transportation and energy. On March 29 the state opened Phase 2, which includes workers in construction, critical manufacturing and higher education, and groups at disproportionate risk of contracting COVID-19.

As supply has increased, vaccinations have expanded from primarily hospitals and nursing homes to health departments, community clinics and large-scale events.

On Wednesday, an eight-week mass vaccination site will open in downtown St. Louis, at The Dome at America’s Center. Residents are encouraged to register in advance to decrease their wait time, but those who are eligible can also sign up on site.

The hospital network SSM Health said on Tuesday that residents don’t have to wait anymore for an invitation to make a vaccination appointment, though its clinics are not taking walk-ins. Eligible residents can make an appointment online.

The Jefferson County Health Department also said, on Sunday, that residents no longer need invitations. On Tuesday, the health department opened one vaccine clinic to walk-ins: It had 1,400 doses available, but just under 400 scheduled appointments that morning, according to Brianne Zwiener, communications specialist for the department.

Zwiener said it was unclear why more appointments hadn’t been taken. There may be more signups when Phase 3 opens on Friday, she said, and some residents may also be traveling to other counties for vaccines.

Missouri reported on Tuesday that more than 1.7 million people have received a first dose of vaccine, or 28% of the population. And of those, nearly 1.1 million have been fully vaccinated.

State health officials also reported on Tuesday Missouri’s first confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant identified in December in South Africa, known as B.1.351.

The case here was an adult in Jackson County. The state also has 35 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.

Residents can schedule a vaccination appointment online through SSM Health, for one of six area locations.

• SSM Health DePaul Hospital’s May Center, 12303 DePaul Drive in Bridgeton.

• SSM Health Outpatient Center, 711 Veterans Memorial Parkway in St. Charles.

• SSM Health Medical Group, 1603 Wentzville Parkway in Wentzville.

• SSM Health Medical Group, 1035 Bellevue Avenue in Richmond Heights.

• SSM Health Medical Group, 1345 Smizer Mill Road in Fenton.

• SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, 1201 S. Grand Blvd. in St. Louis.

For vaccinations in Jefferson County, registration links will be available on the health department website.

Residents interested in getting vaccinated at The Dome at America’s Center should sign up through the state vaccine portal. Those without computer or internet access can call the state COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411.

The site at the Dome is primarily vaccinating residents who live in certain St. Louis and St. Louis County zip codes: 63137, 63133, 63147, 63120, 63136, 63136, 63120, 63137, 63112, 63121, 63107, 63134, 63113, 63138, 63112, 63074, 63108, 63135, 63106, 63114, 63102, 63140, 63101, 63033, 63103, 63042, 63110, 63044, 63118, 63034, 63116, 63132, 63111, 63125, 63125, 63130, 63123

Michele Munz of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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