Missouri navigator sends KC woman hundreds of miles away for second COVID-19 vaccine

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You better have a full tank of gas and a lot of time if you are using Missouri’s Vaccine Navigator to find a COVID-19 vaccine site.

“The options they gave me were Leopold and Booneville,” said Kathleen Lee, 70, of Kansas City.

The tiny hamlet of Leopold (population 65) is 357 miles from Kansas City, not far from the Arkansas border. Booneville is closer, but still more than 100 miles away from Lee’s Midtown KC home.

Lee declined those two sites and asked the navigator website to provide her with more choices, but they were just as bad.

“They were all down in the Bootheel,” Lee said, who is retired from the city and anxious to get vaccinated so she can spend more time with her grandchildren.

Location wasn’t the only problem Lee was having in dealing with the navigator.

“I would get a text within two minutes on my phone telling me to hit the link below and it will take you to a place to schedule, but there was no link,” she said.

Lee called the state for help, but the state told her to call Swope Health Center. That’s the Kansas City site where Lee got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last month.

But Swope told Lee she had to go through the state’s vaccine navigator to schedule her second shot because that’s what she used to schedule her first shot.

“We were getting this back and forth thing, and I was nearly in tears,” Lee said.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which runs the navigator, told FOX4 Problem Solvers that Lee’s predicament was unusual.

But Problem Solvers has received multiple complaints from Kansas Citians and other metro residents who were also sent hours away to get a vaccine. A woman in Liberty was sent to Kirksville – more than two hours away.

A woman in Independence said she had to drive her elderly mother to Booneville. Last week, dozens of people in St. Louis were sent to Sedalia, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lee said. “I’m a retired person with resources. I have the internet. I have a car. What’s going to happen to people who don’t have resources? I can’t imagine what they are doing to get a second shot.”

Finding a local vaccine site has become so problematic that the city of Kansas City announced Tuesday it’s allowing anyone over the age of 65 to call 311 for help locating a local vaccine site.

Lee called FOX4 Problem Solvers. Working for you, we called Swope Health, which worked around the navigator and fit her into its schedule. She received her vaccine Tuesday afternoon.

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