Missouri expects J&J vaccinations to start by Wednesday

By JIM SALTER Associated Press

O'FALLON — Missouri vaccinators are expected to receive the first 50,000 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday, and the state's health director said the shots can start as soon as the doses arrive.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday. Nearly 4 million doses of the one-shot vaccine are now being shipped across the U.S. Some states expect to begin injections Tuesday, but Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said Monday that the first doses in Missouri are expected a day later.

Gov. Mike Parson said in a news release that hospitals, local public health agencies, federally-qualified health centers and mass vaccination clinics will get the vaccine "so local providers can help determine which populations could be best served with a single-dose regimen."

The new vaccine is the third approved to fight the coronavirus. The White House is encouraging Americans to take the first dose available to them, regardless of manufacturer. Missouri's health director, Dr. Randall Williams, agreed.

"The best COVID-19 vaccine you can get is the one you are able to get the soonest after becoming eligible," Williams said. "The scientific evidence shows that the (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine does a great job at preventing hospitalizations and deaths which is the main goal for COVID-19 vaccines."

The additional vaccine comes as thousands of residents in Missouri's two urban areas are signing up and traveling to rural communities in hopes of getting shots that remain elusive in St. Louis and Kansas City and their surrounding counties. Social media sites share information about rural spots where vaccine may be plentiful.

Among them was tiny Leopold in southeast Missouri. Last week, a state-sponsored mass vaccination event at the Knights of Columbus had 2,000 doses available -- far more than were needed by the roughly 65 residents or those in surrounding Bollinger County

"ANYONE can go get the COVID vaccine at the Knights of Columbus. The health department has opened it up to anyone to avoid wasting the vaccine," KFVS-TV reporter Alayna Chapie wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

Some of the vaccine at Leopold went unused but wasn't wasted, Cox said. It was redistributed to other nearby vaccination sites.

Parson, a Republican, has noted that the St. Louis region makes up about 31% of the state's population and has received roughly 31% of the vaccine. The Kansas City region's population includes 23% of all Missourians, and the region is getting "between 20% and 23%" of the vaccine, he told the Kansas City Star and WDAF-TV last week.

In Kansas City, KCUR reported that the city is partnering with community groups and Walmart to focus on getting vaccines to the six zip codes with the highest mortality rates.

"The communities that are hardest affected by COVID also have had the least access to vaccines. So, we're doing everything we can to correct that," said John Stamm, chief of staff for Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Missouri reported 192 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, and no new deaths. The state has cited 478,416 confirmed cases and 7,919 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.