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As COVID-19 Vaccinations Lag, Missouri Gets Unused Doses From CVS and Walgreens

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson had initially supported the federal partnership with pharmacies to vaccinate long-term care facilities.

As Missouri seeks to speed up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, the state is reclaiming unused doses that were initially allocated to large pharmacy chains’ long-term care facility vaccination programs.

The state has obtained 45,000 doses from CVS and Walgreens that will be diverted to the state's vaccination efforts, said Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson, and officials are working to obtain more.

In the early stages of the federal long-term care vaccination campaign, which was implemented under the Trump administration, the pharmacy chains were given far more doses than were needed. State officials say that obtaining control of those doses will allow Missouri to vaccinate more residents.

Approximately 332,000 doses were allocated for CVS and Walgreens vaccinators in Missouri as part of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long- Term Care Program, which began in late December.

A total of 90,352 doses had been administered in Missouri by CVS and Walgreens as of Thursday.

The number of doses allocated to the CVS was based not on actual numbers of residents and staff, but on the total number of beds in facilities multiplied by two. That was meant to provide a rough approximation of the total number of residents and staff who would be eligible for the vaccine, a CVS spokesperson said.

Decisions regarding Walgreens dose allocations were “made by federal and state governments based on resident and staff information submitted by long-term care facilities,” a corporate spokesperson told KCUR.

Both companies acknowledged they received more doses than needed. The CVS spokesman said vaccine hesitancy had also led to many doses going unused.

Parson had expressed support for the pharmacy partnership when it was launched last year, but Robert Knodell, his deputy chief of staff, told a legislative committee that the state was frustrated with the program, St. Louis TV station KPLR reported.

“I’m not sure if Missouri would take a leap of faith again,” Knodell said. “When the federal government told us we had to allocate over 300,000 doses, prime and booster, into that program — that we have no control over.”

Federal data on Friday showed Missouri next to last among states for doses administered, although Parson and state officials have argued the data misrepresent the state's progress due to timing of reporting.

State health department data on Friday showed a total of 632,213 doses had been administered across the state, with 8 percent of Missouri's residents having received at least one dose. That compares with 8.4% of
Americans overall.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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