No vaccines yet, but Cooper County Health still preparing for shipments

Charles Dunlap
Boonville Daily News

Even though the Cooper County Public Health Center has yet to receive a shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is getting ready for when it does. 

The department posted a notice Tuesday on its Facebook page asking for general demographic information in its preparations to administer doses of the vaccine. 

Cooper County residents can submit:  

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • If they are a health care worker
  • Employment status and type
  • Retirement status
  • List of any major medical conditions

Residents are asked to submit this information through the contact page of the health center's website. Those without a computer can call the health center at 660-882-2626, where a staff member will take down your information. 

The reason for this demographic data collection is down to vaccine administration logistics, Health Director Melanie Hutton said. 

"We have been working with some local hospitals who might have extra (vaccine doses) to start with our health care workers," she said. 

The state still is in the first phase of administering vaccines. That phase is broken down into two categories based on the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan. Category 1A is for health care workers who regularly are in contact with patients, such as at nursing homes or hospitals. Category 1B is for first responders and high-risk individuals, mostly those 65 and older. 

The health center, when it does get a shipment of vaccine doses, does not want to waste them as there is a small window in which they can be administered.

The vaccine being used in Missouri is from Pfizer, Hutton said, which needs extremely cold temperatures during shipment and before usage to remain viable. Once a dosage phial is removed from the freezer it has to be opened within five days. Once it is opened, which contains six doses, it can't be used the next day.

"If we run out of health care people to do, we then could do some of these high-risk folks with some of those extra doses, rather than waste them," Hutton said. 

This is another reason for the data collection by the health center — it wants to identify which residents who may be health care workers who have not yet received the vaccine and create a vaccination schedule for high-risk individuals and older adults. 

Hutton wants county residents to know the health center has limited staff, and so even though it may seem like nothing is happening, work still is going on to get vaccine doses in the county and other work related to COVID-19. 

"Not all health departments are giving vaccines and not all health departments are testing in Region F," Hutton said. "We are the only one that is doing public testing, except for Audrain County."

The health center also continues to conduct contact tracing for COVID-19 patients, which other counties have stopped doing, she said. 

"And now we are taking on vaccine management, and so it's a big stressor even with our extra part-time staff," Hutton said. "It's a lot of extra work but it is our commitment to the community to provide all of those. We are doing a lot with what we have. It requires a lot of work and effort."

Even when the department does receive shipments of the vaccine, they likely will be small, which is another reason for the logistical planning for the vaccine. This means there likely won't be drive-thru vaccine clinics because the department won't have the vaccine capacity to conduct such an event. 

"We will have this list to pick out the high-risk people by their age and then we can plan (vaccinations) over a period of time," Hutton said. 

The department will have to space out vaccinations to a certain number of people over a certain timeframe since there is a 20-minute observation window after the vaccine is administered. This is to make sure a person does not have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. This means the department needs a large enough room or area to space people out who receive the vaccine, and for the post observation period. 

"Because we don't know when we are going to get the vaccine and how much, this gives us the ability to serve people in smaller numbers and larger numbers and prioritize out of those groups," Hutton said. 

The health center already had a list of health care workers, but is trying to pare this down to just those who have not yet received the vaccine, since there are out-of-county locations administering the vaccine. 

"That helps us be more clear on our vaccine request," Hutton said. "You have to have your ducks in a row and be prepared to provide it."