JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) Governor Mike Parson announced that Missouri has submitted its plan for administering the impending COVID-19 vaccine to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Governor Parson was joined by Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams during today’s weekly briefing to announce the completion of the plan, which was due to the CDC by October 16.
“This has been an incredible collaborative effort, and I want to thank all of the agencies and partners involved for their hard work and dedication. In the midst of an ever-changing and unprecedented situation, our team of professionals has done outstanding work to develop a detailed plan,” Governor Parson said. “We are in a great place in the planning process and will be well-prepared to take action as soon as a vaccine becomes available.”
In April, the CDC began communicating with the DHSS Bureau of Immunizations regarding early planning efforts, and multi-agency planning began in July. In August, a larger group of more than 75 State team members, 10 Missouri National Guardsmen, and 50 federal and local partners began working together to develop Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccine response plan.
The state received the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook just one month ago.
“We have worked diligently for months, even before we received this direction from the CDC, to ensure we are prepared for when the time comes to execute the plans to distribute and administer the vaccine,” Dr. Williams said. “We’re grateful to our partners who have shared their knowledge and expertise and will continue to assist us moving forward.”
Missouri’s planning efforts are based upon CDC guidance to anticipate a phased availability of vaccines within the state. Recognizing the likelihood of limited availability, Missouri’s plan first focuses the initial doses toward reducing or stopping death and disability by reducing the stress on health care systems caring for affected patients.
The state plans to collaborate with health care systems and pharmacy and community partners to vaccinate long-term care facility staff and other health care workers.
“The Missouri Hospital Association appreciates being a partner in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine planning effort,” said Missouri Hospital Association President and CEO Herb Kuhn. “Missouri’s hospitals will be actively engaged in advocating for vaccination and administering the vaccine in the communities they serve.”
As vaccine availability expands, vaccination efforts will be aimed at residents most at risk, the elderly, and those with medical conditions placing them at high risk for poor outcomes.
“Missouri’s long-term care facilities employ tens of thousands of essential health care workers dedicated to caring for our residents who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their age and underlying health conditions,” said Nikki Strong, Executive Director of the Missouri Health Care Association. “The asymptomatic nature of this virus makes it difficult to keep it from entering long-term care facilities through these essential staff. We applaud Governor Parson and his team for recognizing this and developing a vaccination plan that puts the staff and residents in Missouri’s long-term care facilities at the highest level of priority once a proven vaccine is available.”
Simultaneously, efforts will be made to reach essential workers in schools and critical businesses. As availability continues to increase, the plan’s final phase will help ensure every Missourian who wants a vaccination is able to obtain one.
“COVID-19 highlights the importance of prevention,” Missouri Primary Care Association CEO Joe Pierle said. “On behalf of the federally-qualified health centers throughout the state, we stand ready to be a vital and integral partner in preventing individual patients from contracting the disease and helping mitigate community spread.”
A unique aspect of Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is recognition of the primacy of local communities and the state’s role to assist them in their efforts.
While a state implementation team is responsible for coordinating with federal agencies, this plan empowers local and regional implementation teams with additional financial and technical support from the state to convene community leaders, citizen advocates, and local health care providers who know the most about their communities.
“We look forward to coordinating future vaccine distribution with our community partners,” said Clay Goddard, Director of Health for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “We are fortunate to have a strong network of long-held relationships with health care, nonprofits, community groups and others in our area that has strengthened our response to COVID-19, and will continue to as we enter the vaccine phase.”
Missouri’s plan builds on the existing network of immunizing providers across Missouri, augmenting their efforts in areas of provider shortages.
“Combining the old-fashioned volunteer spirit of Missourians with state-of-the-art technology guarantees a safe and effective vaccine is distributed equitably and efficiently,” DHSS Bureau of Immunizations Chief Jennifer VanBooven said.
Preparations and scenario exercises are actively continuing while awaiting an approved vaccine. As part of Operation Warp Speed, federal agencies will announce when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.