Additional 170,000 coronavirus vaccines coming to Missouri after critical state review

Tracking Coronavirus

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri’s health department director on Thursday announced that the state is expected to get about 170,000 coronavirus vaccines late this month.

Director Randall Williams said 64,000 Pfizer vaccines and an additional 105,000 from Moderna are scheduled to arrive around Dec. 21.

Originally, the state only expecting an initial 51,000 doses from Pfizer. That amount would likely not have been enough to even cover the state’s first responders.

Missouri is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to give the vaccine to health care workers and nursing home staff first.

The news follows the Wednesday release of an independent review that found Missouri veterans homes didn’t act take the COVID-19 virus seriously enough, act quickly enough or plan well enough to prevent its spread.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson in October called on the Missouri Veterans Commission to conduct an external review of its handling of the coronavirus following an uptick in cases at homes.

About 342 veterans at state homes have tested positive for the virus as of mid-November, according to the report by St. Louis law firm Armstrong Teasdale. At least 103 have died.

“There’s some things in that report that are definitely going to have to be addressed, and they’re going to have to be explained,” Parson told reporters Thursday.

The review found that officials did not take aggressive action when the first COVID-19 cases hit veterans homes, and investigators wrote that lack of long-term planning demonstrated an “absence of leadership.”

“Without an appreciation for the problem or a comprehensive plan in place, the (Missouri Veterans Commission’s) response to the outbreak was inadequate,” investigators wrote. “In particular, the Homes had significant issues related to testing, cross-contamination, and staffing.”

The review found that delayed test results, multiple residents rooming together in close quarters, and staffing shortages contributed to the virus’ spread.

Reviewers also recommended that designated family members be allowed to visit residents.

The federal government banned visitors at nursing homes and other long-term care centers earlier this year in hopes of preventing outbreaks among vulnerable residents. But reviewers said that resulted in “an outbreak of loneliness, isolation, depression and atrophy” at Missouri veterans homes.

“The Veterans are alive, but not living,” reviewers wrote.

Missouri’s health department in September released guidelines to allow more visits but with strict precautions.

Missouri Veterans Commission Chairman Tim Noonan said Armstrong Teasdale gave some of the advice to the commission before the report was issued so changes could be made quickly.

In a statement, he called the recommendations insightful and said they would drive changes that the commission plans to enact.

“We are dedicated to serving our veterans, especially during these difficult times,” Noonan said.

Statewide, the Department of Health and Senior Services as of Thursday reported at least 18,437 new coronavirus cases over the past week, or roughly 2,634 new cases a day on average. Ninety-eight deaths were reported in the last seven days.

Parson on Thursday also announced that schools in Greene, St. Charles and St. Louis counties are participating in a pilot study of coronavirus transmission in K-12 schools. He said CDC officials are coming to Missouri this weekend to help track the virus’ spread and review local health policies as part of the study.

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