Health officials excited for final vaccine phases in Missouri
All Missouri adults will be eligible for vaccines starting April 9th.
NEWTON/BARTON COUNTY, Mo. – In less than a month, every adult in Missouri will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re excited about that,” says Joel Dermott, Administrator at Barton County Health Department.
“I like the fact that we’re opening up the phases,” says Larry Bergner, Administrator at Newton County Health Department.
On March 18th, Governor Parson announced that the state will be moving into the final phases of vaccine distribution in less than a month.
Phase two will open on March 29th, bringing eligibility to 880 thousand additional Missouri residents. Then, on April 9th, phase three will open, making every Missouri adult eligible to receive a vaccine.
“I think that’s a great thing because now from a provider perspective we don’t have to go through that screening process to figure out, are you eligible? Are you not eligible?” says Bergner. “It takes away the confusion for everybody.”
“Especially here where we live where we’re next to other states, we border other states, and their protocols protocols may be a little different than ours. So that creates even more confusion,” explains Dermott. “Overall we’re excited about seeing that happen because it will allow us to get to people much easier and people will have… if they want a vaccine, they should be able to get it.”
Bergner says the number of doses per shipment they receive will soon be doubled. So once the phases open up, they’ll not only have the vaccine supply, but also the arms to get the doses into.
“We have had a few instances where we actually have trouble getting enough people to sign up to get the vaccine that’s available. So, by opening up all of the phases I don’t think we’ll have to deal with that problem,” says Bergner.
But the biggest thing both of them are looking forward to is reaching herd immunity sooner than they originally anticipated.
Herd immunity is what health officials have been working toward with vaccines — getting a substantial percentage of the population immune to the disease, so that it can’t effectively spread. That’s something Bergner and Dermott anticipate reaching some time this summer.
“I think this is the point that we’ve been working toward since this time last year. For the last twelve months, everyone has been anxiously anticipating a time when we would have some time of herd immunity, either from everyone getting it and recovering or from a vaccine. The combination of those two are pushing our numbers up. I think that’s why we’re seeing the slow down overall in our number of positive cases. So I think what we’re anticipating then is those numbers should get better,” says Dermott. “I think if we keep working towards that goal and getting as many people vaccinated as we can, I think getting closer to that 70-75 percent range for herd immunity is very achievable by this summer.”
“If we can all work together to increase the number of vaccine doses we give each week, we can get to that herd immunity and then even beyond as quickly as possible. And I’m excited that we could actually do it by summertime,” says Bergner.
Both Bergner and Dermott plan to continue using an appointment based system for vaccination clinics moving forward, since they will continue to receive a certain amount of vaccine each week.