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FEMA to open 8-week vaccination site in St. Louis, at least tripling city capacity

FEMA to open 8-week vaccination site in St. Louis, at least tripling city capacity

St. Louis holds 2-day mass vaccination event with Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Nurse Erica Davis prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the mass vaccination event at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park on Thursday, March 25, 2021. The two-day event, that continues on Friday, is aiming to vaccinate 3,000 people a day with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — State and federal officials on Monday announced plans to administer as many as 168,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in St. Louis over eight weeks this spring, dramatically increasing the state’s ability to vaccinate city residents.

Officials said the site will open April 7, and will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week at the Dome at America’s Center.

“We think that that’s going to be able to reach almost everybody in the city of St. Louis who wants a vaccination,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. “It really should give everybody the opportunity to get a vaccination right here, close to home.”

Vaccinations in the city have lagged behind the state average, and residents have reported driving hours to rural sites to get vaccinated when they couldn’t find local appointments. At the same time, officials have worried about reaching poor and minority populations here. Federal officials said Monday that they are focusing efforts on St. Louis to combat those issues specifically.

“This special vaccination site enables us to help St. Louis be better protected from COVID-19 by increasing access to life-saving vaccines, particularly for those in the city who are medically at high risk or underserved because they don’t have ready access to health care,” said Kathy Fields, acting regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 7. “This effort will go a long way to ensure equitable access to vaccinations.”

On Monday an estimated 880,000 Missourians became eligible for vaccine under Phase 2 of the state’s plan. The group includes employees in sectors like construction, critical manufacturing and financial services, as well as restaurant workers, higher education workers, library staff and government workers. It also includes the homeless, and other groups with disproportionately high risk of infection. All residents 16 and older are expected to become eligible for vaccines on April 9, when the state opens Phase 3.

State data on Monday showed that more than 50,000 people in the city have received at least one dose of vaccine. Krewson said that the state data does not yet reflect the 6,600 individuals who were vaccinated at large-scale clinics on Thursday and Friday at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, and there are 240,000 total adults living in the city.

The new site will be able to inject up to 21,000 doses per week, Gov. Mike Parson said in his announcement. By comparison, state data accessed on Monday showed that in the past week, 9,300 doses were administered to city residents.

FEMA also announced on Monday a similar effort in Gary, Indiana.

DuWayne Tewes, FEMA site coordinator for the upcoming vaccine clinic at the America’s Center, said the cities were chosen because they have large portions of underserved groups, as defined by an index that emergency response planners use to identify areas that are most likely to need support during a disaster. The index factors in poverty, lack of access to transportation and crowded housing, among other issues.

The location was chosen by a team of representatives from the city, state and FEMA. Tewes said the America’s Center was also chosen in part because it is located near public transportation. And the governor’s office said in a press release that arrangements are underway to provide free parking.

“Placing it here, within the community, and staying here for a long term, with that ease of access and the opportunity to schedule appointments any day of the week, hopefully, will all help close that gap and make the vaccine more accessible to everybody,” Tewes said.

St. Louis’ vaccination rate is well below the state average. Data from the Department of Health and Senior Services on Monday showed that just 16.8% of city residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with 24% in St. Louis County, and 24.5% statewide.

The doses used for the mass vaccination site will not come out of the city or the state’s allotment, but from a separate allocation set aside by the federal government. The brand of vaccine delivered there will vary depending on availability.

Missouri reported 193 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and 142 new probable cases. The seven-day average of confirmed cases rose to 354, from 351 the day before.

Illinois reported 1,761 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. The seven-day average rose to 2,358, from 2,281 the day before. The state also reported six more deaths due to the virus.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 26 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in the area, down from 35 the day before. There were a total of 220 virus patients across area BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital facilities — down from 224 the day before. Task force data lags two days.

Residents interested in receiving a vaccination at the America’s Center can preregister through the state’s vaccine website: https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator/

Residents without computer or internet access can call the state COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411 for registration assistance.

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