News Briefs

Missouri health care workers expected to start getting COVID vaccine next week

By: - December 11, 2020 2:57 pm

Randal Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, testifies on Nov. 10 before the House Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention (photo by Tim Bommel/House Communications).

The first vaccinations for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will likely be Thursday, state health Director Randall Williams said during a conference call Friday with reporters.

With a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech awaiting final approval from federal regulators, Williams said Missouri is expecting a shipment of 51,000 doses that will be used to inoculate front-line health care workers.

Just behind that vaccine is one created by Moderna, which Williams said will arrive in a batch of 70,000 doses about a week later and be used to vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

Williams spoke during an online session with about 40 reporters. He was reporting on the state’s vaccination plan after meeting Thursday in Washington with the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss preparations for delivering the vaccines.

The major part of the vaccine rollout will take place in early 2021, Williams said. 

Before the general public can be vaccinated, Williams said, the state will try to reach teachers and child care providers, emergency medical and other first responders and people involved in transportation, all considered critical jobs for public safety and infrastructure.

At that point, the vaccine will have been offered to about half of the state’s population, Williams said.

“We are trying to reach 3 million people in about two months and we are depending on providers to make that happen,” he said.

During the call, Willliams said he is convinced the vaccines offered for approval so far are safe and effective. The method used to create the vaccine is new and, unlike older vaccines, does not use any part of the actual infective organism to provide immunity.

Instead, it was based on creating a dose that causes the body to make a key protein of the coronavirus, triggering the immune system to recognize it when the virus enters the body.

He considered being the first or among the first in the state to receive a shot as a way of highlighting his confidence, Williams said, but will instead wait in line like everyone else.

“We made a conscious decision here, that we will get it in our turn,” he said.

The vaccines all require two doses, spaced about three weeks apart, to be totally effective.

The promise of a vaccine beginning next week is no reason to relax on COVID-19 prevention, Williams said. While Missouri’s relative position in terms of new infections has improved, the daily case count remains high, he noted.

The Department of Health and Senior Services reported 3,900 new infections Friday and has reported an average of 3,598 per day for the past seven days. Hospitalizations stood at 2,795 on Tuesday, the last day with complete information, just 56 below the peak.

On Tuesday, only about 11 percent of the state’s adult intensive care beds were available for new patients, the Missouri Hospital Association dashboard reports.

That means continued vigilance, wearing masks when social distancing is not possible, and using hand sanitizer, he said.

The advice issued for Thanksgiving remains good for Christmas, Williams said.

“It is just not like the previous 30 Christmases before this,” Williams said. “It is just not.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.