KANSAS CITY, Mo — Missouri moved into Phase 1B-Tier 3 on Monday, adding 500,000 people to the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility list.
But it’s already raising questions about if the state is ready to make the move when so many people in the previous tiers are still having a difficult time getting a vaccine appointment.
Getting a vaccination appointment is a frustration for many people, as appointments get filled as soon as they open up. There’s a lot of competition.
“If you’re on the Jackson County list, we’ll go through a process of reaching out to those folks and getting them scheduled,” said Charlie Shields, president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers, University Health.
Truman is taking on the challenge of administering the COVID-19 vaccines during this week’s mass vaccination event at Arrowhead Stadium. At least 6,000 Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccines will be given Friday and Saturday.
“The other way is, they can go out to the state website and actually sign up there,” Shields said. “So you know, between those two, two different avenues to get on the list, we’ll be able to serve a lot of people.”
The state will reach out to people through its Vaccine Navigator System on Monday and Tuesday to make appointments. If there are additional slots open later in the week, they will be offered to people who have signed up with the Jackson County Health Department.
Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer, who has been vocal about concerns that the Kansas City region has not gotten its fair share of vaccines, said he felt Tier 3 needed to be opened up for teachers only so students could get back to school. He now supports a wider group because of a shift in the vaccine distribution plan.
“Region A is now slated for getting more vaccine at the end of March,” Archer said. “I’m not as concerned about opening up Tier 3.”
The Missouri Vaccine Dashboard shows Region A, which has 23% of the population, has only gotten 20% of the vaccines so far. Archer said the region will now begin getting 24% of the vaccine supply.
“By the end of April, we should have caught up in our allocation for the metro area, and so it’s good to be moving on into Tier 3,” Archer said. “We are going to prioritize though because we can’t open up all of Tier 3 when we still have folks that are over 65 that aren’t vaccinated.”
Gov. Mike Parson’s office sent this statement regarding moving into Tier 3:
“Vaccine supply has been significantly increasing, and our federal partners have informed us that we should expect to continue seeing significant increases over the next several weeks with supply coming in from the manufacturers of the three authorized vaccines.
“This is one of the main reasons for today’s activation of Tier 3. This announcement was made in advance to allow critical infrastructure employers to begin making connections with vaccinators in their area and work on plans to vaccinate their workforce once they became eligible.
“We continue to work with the group of more than 1,000 enrolled providers to ensure they are ready for this new pace that is to come. With that said, the current supply is still outstripped by demand which means prioritization of individuals based on risk will continue to occur. We expect Missouri will make significant progress in vaccination efforts over the next month.”