Missouri’s health director addresses problem of unused doses at rural mass vaccination site

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s health director said the state is looking at ways to bring more mass vaccination sites to urban areas after doses have gone unused at rural vaccination sites.

Over the weekend, more than 1,400 doses had to be redistributed after not enough people showed up at a scheduled mass vaccination site in north-central Missouri.

Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams said he potentially sees that happening more frequently as the state vaccinates more people.

“You are going to have people multiple listed that don’t get off the list,” Williams said. “You’re going to think you’re going to have 200 people coming that’s already been vaccinated somewhere else.”

While some parts of the state are calling themselves vaccine deserts, others have received more doses than needed.

“I see the potential that there could be more of an issue as we vaccinate more people,” Williams said. “So, I think we need to double down to really look at the allocation versus the recipients.”

As of Tuesday, Missouri has administered 1.3 million doses of the vaccine, with 14.2 percent of the state’s population receiving at least the first dose.

“There’s just absolutely no doubt that when you’re doing a million of anything there is going to be situations where it doesn’t go exactly as smoothly as everybody wants it to,” Williams said.

During a mass vaccination event this past weekend in Putnam County, the health department posted on Facebook that 1,488 doses went unused and were redistributed to other counties. An additional 143 doses of the vaccine were thrown away because needles were dislodged, not all vials rendered six doses, there were no shows and duplicate appointments, and the extra vaccine was drawn up than what was needed.

“I tend to look at 143 versus 1.2 million. Most people in my line of work, physicians, would say that’s pretty good,” Williams said. “Delivering health care is not a perfect science.”

Williams wants Missourians to know doses normally don’t go wasted in the state.

“When you’re given more than 1 million doses, that 140 would increase the number of wasted doses exponentially,” Williams said. “It just doesn’t happen as often as one might think it happens.”

Moving forward, Williams said the state needs to have contingency plans in place to migrate the unused vaccine.

“The lessons learned there is you just have to be really thoughtful of trying to match allocation to the best of your ability to predict who will be able to receive it there,” Williams said.

As for the Missourians driving hours for a vaccine, Williams said the state is working on additional mass vaccination sites in urban areas like Kansas City and St. Louis. The state has not said when those events will be held.

“However we do it, I think we are in discussions to recognize that we will need to evolve how we are doing things as we get more vaccine,” Williams said. “What that exactly will look like it remains to be unseen.”

Parson told reporters Tuesday in Kansas City that he expects the state to use Arrowhead Stadium for a mass vaccination site later this month. He said the event would be coordinated by the Missouri National Guard.

This site would use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to vaccinate 6,000 people a day.

On the Johnson & Johnson vaccine front, Williams said the 50,000 doses coming to Missouri this week are not going to a specific location or provider.

“We are distributing accordingly,” Williams said. “You might say, well this is a one dose vaccine versus the other ones that are two does, does that make it different for different populations? We’ve really decided to let clinicians decided that.”

He is urging Missourians to not wait for a specific vaccine and get the one they can receive the quickest. Williams said the state is committed to giving every Missourian who wants a vaccine one to be able to get on by July.

The state health director said Missouri is second in the nation for lowest number of cases.

“Clearly, Missourians are doing something right,” Williams said.

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