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In Depth: How vaccines have been distributed in Missouri

Poplar Bluff mass COVID-19 vaccination site
Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 19:51:14-05

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — A Missouri health department says it had to throw out more than 140 doses Saturday after a mass vaccination clinic.

In a press release, the Putnam County Health Department explained duplicate appointments, no-shows and needles being dislodged were some of the factors behind the wasted vaccine.

The health department received 2,340 doses but only vaccinated about 700 people at the event. The rest of the doses were redistributed for use at other events.

"The vast majority of things go right every day, but it was unfortunate," Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday, "It shouldn't have happened. We've got to make corrections."

The anecdote is again drawing attention to vaccine distribution in Missouri, so the 41 Action News I-Team is going in-depth to break down the plan thus far.

According to the state, vaccines are distributed based on population.

The population tallies are based on Missouri State Highway Patrol districts. Kansas City falls into Region A, which is slated to receive 20% of the total vaccine allocation for its 23% of the state's population.

Meanwhile, St. Louis is in Region C, which is supposed to get 36% of the vaccine allocation.

However, aside from a clinic in Clay County, most mass vaccinations up until this point have happened far from the Kansas City metro, like in Henry County.

41 Action News covered one of the mass vaccination clinics in Clinton, Missouri.

"We tried to get signed up to places close to where we live, but none of that worked," Jerry Weis, who drove from the Northland to Clinton to get his dose, said.

Many are wondering why a location in Jackson County has not been chosen for a mass vaccination site.

When asked the question on Tuesday, Parson said it's because up until this month, more than 50 percent of doses were already going to major health systems that serve cities.

The state included systems like Truman Medical Centers and Saint Luke's in its partnership with High Throughput Health Centers (HTHCs), which are defined as hospitals with the capability to administer at least 5,000 vaccines per week.

"The reason we were really narrow on the hospitals, the healthcare centers, was because we were really targeting 65 years and older, and virtually all of them already have the infrastructure in place in their systems," Gov. Parson said, "We thought that was the fastest way to do it, and we still believe it is."

However, not everyone agrees.

In a letter requesting FEMA-run mass vaccination events in KCMO, Mayor Quinton Lucas pointed out the current plan means access to a vaccination is "predicated on association with a hospital, which provides disproportionate access to those with social or professional connections to vaccine opportunities."

"The problem is, we are not getting vaccines to the extent we need to to populations that are largely left out," Lucas said.

In an interview on Tuesday, Lucas cited as an example the 1.9% statewide vaccination rate for members of the Latinx community.

Through the city's vaccination task force, the KCMO Health Department has been working with hospitals on outreach to diverse communities.

Meanwhile, on the state level, it was announced that distribution percentages are changing as of this week.

Instead of 53% of the vaccine allocation, HTHCs will receive 41%. In addition, 15% will be dedicated solely to "vaccine desert mitigation."

  • High-throughput health centers: 41%
  • Mass vaccination events: 22%
  • Local public health agencies: 7%
  • Federally qualified health centers: 8%
  • Community/enrolled providers: 7%
  • Vaccine desert mitigation: 15%

Parson said mass clinics facilitated by the Missouri National Guard are headed to the metro as well. He floated Arrowhead Stadium as an example of a clinic site, where he believes 6,000 doses could be administered in a day.

Parson said the recent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help the state expand mass vaccination clinics.