Legislative session underway, Missouri on track with vaccine distribution

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FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. Gov. Parson, a former sheriff running for reelection on a law-and-order platform against Nicole Galloway, Missouri’s state auditor. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Gov. Mike Parson said Missouri could be finished vaccinating everyone in phase 1A by the end of January, which includes more than 450,000 people. 

The state said Missouri has the people to give COVID vaccines, they just need more vaccine to give.  

“Missouri is still ahead of the major states in our vaccine distribution plan,” Parson said. “We anticipate receiving an adequate supply of vaccines by the end of January to complete phase 1A.”

As of Friday, Missouri has administered more than 124,000 doses of the vaccine and Parson said the state is set to receive around 37,000 Pfizer vaccine doses and 36,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. 

“We committed the Moderna vaccine to our long-term care facilities,” said Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams. “We anticipate we will be finished with that in about another 10 days.”

Williams said all 1,300 long-term care facilities in Missouri signed up to partner with CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccine. He also said the state is looking at COVID-19 tests to make sure no one test positive for the UK variant of the virus. 

Lawmakers also returned to Jefferson City this week to start the new session. Parson said he wants lawmakers to work on COVID liability immediately. 

“I am terribly disappointed we didn’t get it done in December in special session,” Parson said. “It should have got done. COVID liability is a huge issue for our state. I think that’s something that needs to be addressed early on.”

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R – Sullivan) said he believes liability will be a priority.

“I think that’s something we’re going to focus on right out of the gate,” Schatz said. 

After some lawmakers cancelled their press conferences Wednesday due to chaos in the nation’s capital, Senate Majority Leadership moved forward with theirs. Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R – Columbia) mentioned the violent riots. 

“I hope those folks get arrested,” Rowden said. “I hope they get thrown in prison and hopefully we can get back to some sense of normalcy. Everybody is to blame. We’ve all screwed this up.”

During the press conference, Schatz was asked about his thoughts on police reform being on the agenda this session.

“If we’re going to talk about reforms, it’s going to have to be something that’s common sense, that’s valuable,” Schatz said. “Something I think our law enforcement leaders think is necessary in order to address.”

Parson and lawmakers agree, it’s going to be a session unlike any other. 

“COVID has caused everything to be different,” Rowden said. “I think for us to think that we set a really concrete and meaningful agenda early in the process this year might be a little bit farfetched.”

“The main thing I’ll be looking at this session is how do I help the people that need it the most right now,” Parson said. “How do I get people back to work, how do I make sure that the health care system is strong and ready to move forward and how do we educate these people to get them back in the workforce?”

Williams said the state is still on track to offer every Missourian who wants the vaccine to be able to get it starting in May. Parson’s communications director told reporters the goal is to start vaccinating phase 1B, which includes high risk population, first responders and essential workers, by February. 

The state currently also has 196 healthcare workers from out of state contracted with Vizient to help with hospital staffing and capacity. Parson said there are more workers coming to the state but didn’t say when or how many.

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