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With hopes for relief pinned to vaccine, Missouri health chief says additional doses coming

With hopes for relief pinned to vaccine, Missouri health chief says additional doses coming

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JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri’s top health official said Thursday that the state is expected to receive an additional allotment of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

With 51,000 doses of Pfizer’s new vaccine already in the pipeline to arrive after Dec. 10, and 105,000 doses coming from Moderna soon after, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said as many as 64,000 more doses of the Pfizer version could help inoculate a significant number of health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities by mid-January.

“We’re incredibly excited about that,” Williams said.

With the coronavirus continuing to spread at alarming levels throughout the state, Williams and Gov. Mike Parson have been pinning their hopes for a breakthrough on the rapid rollout of a vaccine.

“As we continue to fight COVID-19 we’re very encouraged by recent vaccine news,” Parson said. “We’re optimistic that a vaccine will provide much needed relief.

Parson, a Republican who ran on a platform of personal freedom as he cruised to victory on Nov. 4, has not issued a mask mandate or stay-at-home orders, saying those are an issue for local officials to decide.

Hospitals, doctors and health care professionals have urged the governor to act to avoid what has become a staffing and space crisis within hospitals across the state as the number of cases have ballooned.

The state's seven-day average hit 659 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds on Thursday, the highest level yet.

Missouri reported 3,998 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 59 more deaths. In all, 4,102 people have died.

Amid the post-Thanksgiving rise in cases, Parson Wednesday announced the state would pay a Texas-based firm to provide as many as 760 additional nurses to relieve staffing shortages at hospitals.

The maneuver could open up as many as 600 additional beds.

The governor also announced that officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will arrive in the Springfield and St. Louis areas this weekend to assist local schools and public health officials in reviewing current public health measures and support efforts to provide a safe school environment.

The visit is part of a partnership with Washington University and St. Louis University designed to study the best ways to stop the spread of the deadly virus in schools.

“We know that COVID-19 is not going away soon, so it is important that we continue to evaluate the guidance we’re issuing at the state level to ensure our procedures are effective and sustainable,” the governor said.

Specific school buildings have not been identified.

Meantime, the vaccine distribution plan puts health care workers at the front of the line. In February, Williams said the state will focus vaccination efforts on residents of state mental facilities and prisons, who, because of their close proximity, are more likely to infect one another.

Parson cautioned that “it will still be sometime before a vaccine is widely available to the public.”

The state hopes to get the vaccine to the general population by mid-April or early May.

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