St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Friday that better communication about the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan should help reduce frustration that erupted publicly this week between Gov. Mike Parson and some eastern Missouri health officials.
Parson on Thursday said St. Louis area health officials — particularly Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force — were misleading residents when they complained that the region was not getting enough vaccine doses to serve its high population.
Page praised Garza’s efforts to help distribute the vaccine in eastern Missouri and said it serves no purpose to cast anyone as a villain at a time when “anxiety is high and opinions differ” on the best way to distribute the doses.
Page said the public feud was fueled by frustration being felt everywhere because demand for the vaccine greatly outstrips supply.
“We have very long waiting lists.” Page said. “People have been waiting a year to get back to some sort of normal and we’ve been hearing about the vaccine for about 10 months. So there is just a lot of pent up frustration and anxiety from waiting.”
He acknowledged that the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services is doing the best it can to distribute the vaccine under difficult circumstances and said he appreciated the department’s efforts to clarify the distribution plan.
Parson on Thursday announced the state would begin sending 3,000 vaccine doses directly to the St. Louis County Health Department. Page said that reliable supply would allow the department to create a dependable system to vaccinate more people, and that system could be easily expanded when more vaccine becomes available.
The state announced Friday that 801,456 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 206,088 who have been given two doses. That is 9.7% of the state’s population, according to the health department’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Missouri reported 470,107 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 884 from the previous day. The state has recorded 7,442 deaths since the pandemic began, an increase of 11 from Thursday.