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Parson to divert doses from pharmacies to boost vaccine rate

Republican Gov. Mike Parson plans to divert thousands of unused doses of coronavirus vaccine from CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to other state-enrolled vaccinators in Missouri to help the slower-than-expected vaccination process, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Kelli Jones said the administration has requested the return of 25,000 doses from CVS and Walgreens, which would then be re-routed to county health departments, medical hospitals and clinics, and hundreds of other state-approved vaccinators.

CVS and Walgreens were tasked with providing vaccinations at long-term care facilities under a Trump administration plan unveiled in December. Jones said Missouri’s new plan won’t affect shots for workers and residents at those facilities that have been ravaged by COVID-19.

“Our objective, though, is for those vaccines allocated in Missouri to be administered into people’s arms, and we’re kind of disappointed how that federal pharmacy program has gone,” Jones said.

The pace of vaccinations has been slower than anticipated throughout the country. President Joe Biden on Tuesday promised a roughly 16% increase in vaccine deliveries to states over the next three weeks, saying states in have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next. Biden said the federal government expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the early fall.

According to data posted Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Missouri ranks last among states when it comes to the percentage of residents who have received an initial vaccine dose. Parson unveiled a new state-run vaccination data website on Tuesday, citing concerns about the CDC data.

“After a call with other governors, I can tell you that Missouri is not alone in our frustration on how vaccination data is being reported by the CDC,” Parson said in a news release. “I and many other governors expressed concern that vaccination data from the CDC is being misrepresented and does not fully reflect the situations we are seeing at the state level.

“The fact is that vaccines ship directly to local providers, and our data shows vaccine distribution and administration rates in Missouri are similar to other states,” Parson said.

According to the state’s new vaccine dashboard, 4.7% of Missourians have received their first dose, though CDC data put the figure at 4.3%.

Parson last week announced that mass vaccination sites run by the National Guard would open across the state. The first opened Friday in Poplar Bluff. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday that a mass vaccination site would open at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus. The timing depends on when the vaccine becomes available.

“We are simply not getting enough vaccine to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible, and this is frustrating,” Page said at a news conference.

In Independence, a pharmacist at a CVS pharmacy mistakenly thawed too much of the Moderna vaccine meant for residents of long-term care facilities. CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis told the Kansas City Star that rather than discard it, the vaccine was given to some employees’ relatives who met the state’s eligibility requirements, which includes first-responders, people 65 and older, and adults with underlying health conditions.

DeAngelis declined to reveal how many relatives were vaccinated or how many vials were mistakenly thawed.

State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the pharmacy did the right thing by not wasting the vaccine, given the circumstances.

Missouri on Wednesday reported 1,444 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths from the disease, pushing its pandemic totals to 452,937 cases and 6,709 deaths.

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