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Shipping delays postpone MU Health vaccination appointments

Langston Newsome
Boonville Daily News
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler talks with the media Wednesday after touring the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Walsworth Family Columns Club at Faurot Field.

The winter weather did not dissuade U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler from touring MU Health Care's vaccination clinic inside the Walsworth Family Columns Club at Faurot Field on Wednesday.

But the polar vortex this week is slowing down the vaccination process.

The February freeze sweeping the country has postponed first-dose appointments at the site scheduled for Friday due to a delayed shipment of vaccine supply.

MU Health was scheduled to receive 4,000 Moderna vaccine doses this week under the state's high-throughput vaccination plan, but the hospital announced late Wednesday afternoon that it had not yet received the shipment ahead of its second weekly installment of mass clinics, planned for Friday and Sunday.

“We still hope to receive the vaccine in time to hold our Moderna first-dose events scheduled for Sunday," said Brad Myers, MU Health Care director of pharmacy and laboratory services.

“We will notify people who have appointments for Friday to let them know their appointments are postponed until we receive the vaccine," he added. "Once we receive the vaccine, we will reach out to reschedule the appointments.”

Those scheduled to receive their second Pfizer dose at the clinic on Friday will be able to receive their vaccination as scheduled, MU Health said. Those doses were not affected by the shipment delay.

The Boone County health department also had its shipment of 200 Moderna doses delayed due to inclement weather. The department says it will begin scheduling appointments once details on the shipment's arrival are confirmed.

Hartzler's visit to the MU Health site came before the announcement about Friday's postponed appointments.

“I wanted to have the opportunity to see the vaccination clinic here,” Hartzler told members of the media after her tour. “I’m just so impressed and encouraged by what they’re doing here. It’s truly amazing."

Hartzler's praise for MU Health was accompanied by optimism surrounding Boone County's current daily case numbers and COVID-related hospitalizations.

The local health department has reported less than 100 new cases every day since Jan. 28. The county's five-day average of new cases was 19 on Tuesday — the lowest average since Aug. 5.

“What it has enabled is for these sites to do some advance planning,” Hartzler said about the statewide vaccine plan. “Individuals can sign up (and) they can get their appointments ahead of time. … I think we’re seeing a vast increase in the amount of people who are able to get vaccines.

“... The number of hospitalizations are going down, both here locally as well as across the country, and that’s very encouraging,” Hartzler said. "Perhaps we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rural counties doing best, and worst, at vaccinations

Rural Missouri counties are both the most and least successful at getting COVID-19 shots into the arms of residents, according to data from the state's coronavirus dashboard on Wednesday.

Shelby County, with just 6,400 residents in a remote area of northeast Missouri, has provided at least one dose of the vaccine to 20.7% of residents. Atchison County, with just under 6,000 residents in Missouri's far northwestern corner, has vaccinated 20.2% of residents, followed by Worth County at 18.2%.

Among the top 15 counties for vaccinations, just one — Cape Girardeau County — has more than 50,000 residents. Cape Girardeau County is tied for fourth with Gasconade County, where 17% of residents have received a dose.

Pulaski County, which is home to Fort Leonard Wood and has 52,000 residents, has the lowest vaccination rate at just 4.2%, followed by other outstate counties — Newton at 4.4%, McDonald at 4.7%, Crawford at 5.2% and Pemiscot at 5.5%.

Overall, 10.6% of Missourians have received at least one dose, and data shows the two urban areas lag behind.

Some St. Louis-area leaders have raised concerns that the region is not getting its fair share of vaccine, prompting an angry rebuke from Gov. Mike Parson. The Republican governor last week accused the region's leaders — particularly Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force — of using "cherry-picked" data.

The information on the state dashboard shows that just 7.8% of Jackson County residents have received a shot. In the St. Louis region, vaccination rates were 9.3% in the city, 7.2% in St. Louis County, 8.2% in St. Charles County and just 6.1% in Jefferson County.

The number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to decline. The state on Wednesday reported 598 new cases and 12 new deaths. The state has reported 472,741 confirmed cases and 7,470 deaths since the pandemic began.

With hospitalizations also on the decline, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced that the county is easing restrictions on youth and adult sports.

Effective Wednesday, the county will allow competitive games and tournaments for all sports as long as only two teams are present on the field or court at the same time. Limits continue on the number of spectators.

Restrictions had been in place since September, drawing protests from parents and athletes.

Jim Salter of The Associated Press contributed to this report.