Health department hopes to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for all Missourians by April

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On Thursday, Missouri officials will release their plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available.

“We hope to have a limited number of vaccines in December and hope to have enough of the vaccine for everybody in April,” Dr. Randall Williams, the state’s health department director, said Tuesday.

Wiliams said this plan has been a talking point for state leaders since July. Missouri’s health department must turn the report into the CDC by noon Friday, and it will be a complicated one.

“There’s probably going to be five vaccines, and each of those have their own specific ways of being stored and being administered,” Williams said.

Two vaccine studies have been temporarily paused, including one just yesterday.

A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate was put on hold Monday while the company investigates whether a study participant’s “unexplained illness” is related to the shot.

“It may have nothing to do with the vaccine,” said Mathai Mammen, head of research and development for Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s medicine development business.

Mammen said the company doesn’t know yet whether the ill participant received the experimental vaccine or a dummy shot.

Final-stage testing of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University also remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine whether an illness in its trial poses a safety risk.

That trial was stopped when a woman developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord, the company has said. The company’s testing has restarted elsewhere.

Temporary stoppages of large medical studies are relatively common. Few are made public in typical drug trials, but the work to make a coronavirus vaccine has raised the stakes on these kinds of complications.

Last week, Dr. Robert Kadlec with the Department of Health and Human Services said the U.S. can expect delivery of a vaccine starting in January 2021. HHS said a vaccine could be approved before the end of the year but will take time to distribute.

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