Clay Co. Public Health not taking appointments for new vaccination phases

Clay County Public Health Center is accepting COVID-19 vaccination interest forms online, but forms are not a means of registration to receive the vaccine.

Despite Gov. Mike Parson activating Phase 1B — Tiers 1 and 2 of Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, the county public health center is still only focusing on vaccinations for those in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers and residents at nursing home facilities.

“We have administered 232 COVID vaccines so far,” said Clay County Public Health Center spokesman Kelsey Neth Tuesday, Jan. 19. “We are actively working to dramatically increase vaccination capability across the county, but we do not have a specific date determined when we will be vaccinating outside of the Phase 1A group.”

One reason for the lag is supply of vaccines is still limited from state and federal distribution channels. “Another reason is that even though our team of nurses, registration staff and more are working tirelessly to make appointments to vaccinate people quickly and safely, the demand for vaccination is extremely high right now. The wait for vaccination could be weeks or even months for some people,” states a release on the county health center site.

Once the health center begins offering vaccines for other priority groups, details will be published on the center’s website and on the Courier-Tribune's COVID-19 Continuing Coverage page at mycouriertribune.com.

“Please remain patient,” state the health center release. “Clay County Public Health Center will not be your only option for vaccination. You may also be able to be vaccinated through your doctor, another health care provider, a mass vaccination clinic, a retail pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens or through your employer.”

Phase 1B Tier 1, the vaccination phase activated Jan. 14, focuses on first responders, public health professionals not facing patients and emergency management and public works employees. Phase 1B — Tier 2 was activated Monday, Jan. 18. Tier 2 focuses on those at increased risk for severe illness such as those aged 65 and older and those with chronic disease, pregnancy, severe obesity, weakened immune systems or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome.

“There are currently not enough vaccines for everyone included in these groups. As additional supplies arrive, this activation will allow for the greatest vaccine coverage where it is most needed,” states a release from the governor’s office. “… Individuals in Phase 1A and Phase 1B — Tier 1 should work through their employer and/or association to access the vaccine. Individuals in Phase 1B — Tier 2 should contact their local pharmacy or health care provider or visit MOStopsCovid.com to learn when vaccines may be available and how to receive them.”

Clay County Public Health Center Director Gary Zaborac said the overall rollout and distribution of vaccines to states and regional public health agencies like the one he helms has been slower than anyone would like, but he’s hopeful that distribution will begin to “improve significantly over the coming weeks.”

“It’s important to emphasize that we are following the state’s plan for vaccinating people in phases per risk category. Additionally, the vaccine storage requirements — the requirement of two doses and the requirement that people have to be monitored for 15 minutes after each shot — are added logistical challenges that makes this effort unique compared to other vaccination efforts we have had to undertake in the past,” he said.

A list of vaccinators and regional vaccine implementation teams is available at MOstopsCovid.com. The state health department encourages employers and associations representing individuals in activated phases to use the list to connect with a vaccinator or regional vaccine implementation team in their area and make a plan for vaccinating their teams.

“We know one of the most common questions among Missourians right now is when it will be their turn to be vaccinated, and we are greatly encouraged by the interest in the vaccines from the public,” said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Each day, our team is monitoring the amount of vaccine available and making sure it is distributed so that people can receive the vaccine as quickly as possible. We are so thankful to our hundreds of clinical partners throughout the state who are making that happen.”

Based on reporting from providers, at least 27% of Phase 1A has received the first dose of the vaccine.

“This includes residents and staff of long-term care facilities and health care workers, including dentists, EMS, school nurses and those working in hospital or clinic settings, among others,” states a state health release.

Missourians began receiving first doses of COVID-19 vaccines last month. More than 160,000 individuals have received an initial dose, and more than 22,000 have now been fully vaccinated with the two-dose series.

At the county level, Zaborac said it will likely be late spring or early summer before vaccination of those most at risk will be complete.

“When that is complete, we will then move to Phase 3 where the general public can start getting vaccinated,” he said. “It will probably be late summer or early fall before we vaccinate enough people to reach herd immunity. That will also, of course, depend on the number of people who choose to get vaccinated. The more who do so the quicker we will move out of this pandemic. We will need people’s continued patience, cooperation and support as we move forward. I know we can do this as a community.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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