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Missouri To Allow Teachers, Agriculture Workers And Others To Get COVID-19 Vaccine In Mid-March

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. Gov. Parson, a former sheriff running for reelection on a law-and-order platform against Nicole Galloway, Missouri's state auditor. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Jeff Roberson/AP
Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced Thursday that more residents would be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Some local health officials warned that opening eligibility could result in some already-eligible people who have not received shots being left further behind.

More than a half a million additional Missouri residents will be eligible to received COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March.

Governor Mike Parson announced on Thursday that the state would activate Phase 1B Tier 3 of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which allows for vaccinating teachers, agriculture workers and others in industries including transportation, power and communications.

He said at a press conference that the state anticipates receiving a significant increase in COVID-19 vaccine doses following the expected emergency use approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“Activating Tier 3 on March 15th will allow us to continue making progress as supplies increase,” Parson said. “There’s no doubt there is still work to be done, but we are absolutely making progress and seeing results.”

The governor acknowledged that many people who are currently eligible under the state’s plan still have not received shots, but he said the decision to further open eligibility was influenced in part by polling showing that 40% of resident would not seek COVID-19 vaccines.

“Part of why we are activating Tier 3 on March the 15th is to make sure that there is a steady flow of people who are eligible and interested in getting vaccinated,” Parson said.

The announcement comes amid concern that the vaccines have not been administered equitably.

While state data show more than 12% of resident have received at least one dose, just over 9% of Kansas City residents and 8.4% of St. Louis City residents have received doses. Meanwhile, some rural counties have vaccination rates of nearly 20%.

Just 3.8% of Black Missourians have received shots, compared to more than 10% of white residents, state data show.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Rex Archer, head of Kansas City, Missouri’s health department, expressed concern that moving into tier 3 could result in some eligible people being left behind.

“My fear is there are some places that already have done most of everybody that wants it in phase 1A and 1B tier 1 and 2, and they’re ready to move on when we still have folks in phase 1A that haven’t been vaccinated in other parts of the state,” Archer said in a meeting of XXX

Archer suggested that the state might prioritize teachers within tier 3 in the interest of keeping schools safe.

Parson defended the state’s progress on vaccinations, pointing to data that show doses have been distributed to regions based on population size.

The state plans to activate Phase 2 within 45 days of the Tier 3 activation if enough doses are available.

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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