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Mass vaccination to open at The Dome, but enrollment is lagging

Mass vaccination to open at The Dome, but enrollment is lagging

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ST. LOUIS — Organizers of an upcoming St. Louis mass vaccination site for the region’s most vulnerable are looking for more area residents to sign up for shots.

The mass vaccination effort starts Wednesday downtown at The Dome at America’s Center — the kickoff of an eight-week marathon that aims to administer 3,000 shots a day, seven days a week, for about 168,000 doses, total. But early enrollment has lagged below expectations.

“We’re concerned that the event’s registration numbers are lower than we would like,” said John Mills, a regional spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is helping coordinate the event.

He said that outreach efforts are continuing, including with church organizations and neighborhood groups.

Government officials including Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson visited The Dome at America’s Center Monday, April 5, 2021, where mass vaccination efforts are set to begin Wednesday — kicking off of an eight-week marathon that aims to administer 3,000 shots a day, seven days a week, for about 168,000 doses, total. The upcoming event is coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Video by Bryce Gray

But The Dome was already humming with activity Monday, as personnel from FEMA and the Department of Defense worked to lay the site out and rehearse their roles ahead of the coming traffic. The vaccinations will take place in the venue’s concourse — not on the main floor, where the St. Louis Auto Show is set to begin Thursday.

Officials including Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson visited the site Monday afternoon, describing it as a critical part of the push to boost vaccinations, particularly among members of vulnerable communities.

“Together, we can save some lives,” said Krewson.

Initially, efforts at the site will exclusively serve people from St. Louis and St. Louis County, with what Mills called a “heavy focus” on people from lower-income communities. A “social vulnerability index” showed that need is greatest in north St. Louis, some parts of south St. Louis, and in north St. Louis County.

FEMA is coordinating “quite a few” similar sites around the country, agency officials said. The site will administer the Pfizer vaccine for the first six weeks, and the Johnson & Johnson alternative for its final two weeks. Doses will be drawn from FEMA, not from the state’s supply.

Parson said that, until now, availability of the vaccine has been a primary challenge, as demand has outpaced supply. But as time progresses, he envisions vaccination efforts reaching a point where the state will need to “market” the shots to individuals hesitant to get them.

The site at The Dome aims to make the vaccination process as convenient as possible. While an appointment in advance will help simplify things, people are also able to register upon their arrival. The site will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. It is accessible by public transportation and also offers free parking.

“We hope that there’s a time that fits everybody’s lifestyle,” said DuWayne Tewes, FEMA’s site coordinator.

Despite the resources and nearly 200 staff members on hand at the facility, he noted that finding attendees will be just as important.

“That’s the other key piece of this for us to all be successful,” Tewes said.

Individuals can register through the state of Missouri’s Vaccine Navigator website at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator/, or by calling 877-435-8411.

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