I have some constituents who are not interested in getting the Covid vaccine, or who don’t want to be among the first to get it.  I have others who are interested, but do not fall into the Phase 1 qualifications recommended by the CDC.  But I have others who are interested and do qualify, but are having a hard time finding the vaccine.  I was recently approached by one of the health departments that serves my district about their frustration over not receiving the vaccine to fulfill their local need.  Constituents and other local leaders also contacted me about the matter.  So I did some digging and here is what I learned.

Neither the federal nor state government order or stockpile the vaccine.  Local health departments, pharmacies, and hospitals get their orders approved by the state, but the vaccine is shipped directly to them from the pharmaceutical company.  The two vaccines now available are from Moderna and Pfizer.  It was decided the Moderna vaccine would be distributed to nursing homes to inoculate those residents and workers, as the Moderna vaccine is not as temperature sensitive and can be broken up into order sizes that fit the needs of those facilities.

Health Departments were required to use the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage and can only be shipped in a box of 975 vials.  But rural health departments like mine may only need 100 vials and do not have the ultra-cold storage, so early on they were not getting the vaccine.  This forced multiple health departments to make a group order.  I don’t know why Pfizer can’t break up an order like Moderna does, but it appears they just don’t.  I’m told now that nursing homes have received their vaccinations, health departments may be able to order Moderna, but citizens will need to get their second shot from the same manufacturer as their first one.

But the biggest hindrance to fulfilling vaccine need is simple supply and demand.  The CDC guidance says that anyone 65 and older, plus a number of health care and government workers, are now eligible for vaccination.  For Missouri, that is about 2.5 million people – nearly half of our population.  Since Missouri is only about 2% of the nation’s population, we only get about 2% of the vaccine produced, which the DHSS director tells me is 80,000 doses/week.  At that rate, it will be over a year for everyone in Phase 1 to get inoculated before we can begin on Phase 2 citizens.  Increased production and more vaccine manufacturers will shorten that time.  Johnson & Johnson is developing a single-shot vaccine, but that is still weeks away.

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Until next time, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family.