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Flu shots could be a ‘bridge’ to coronavirus vaccine, says Williams


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri may increase its emphasis on flu shots ahead of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams.

“Our goal is to provide a bridge between right now and January and December, when we believe a vaccine will be available to the people of Missouri,” Williams said. “In the meantime, we think it is incredibly important that we build this bridge and vaccinate everybody we possibly can for the flu in about another month. Normally in Missouri, only 45 percent of adults get their flu shots, and we need that to be higher this year.”

Williams said vaccinations could be vital during the upcoming months when flu season begins. Increased preventative care for the flu could help preserve hospital resources for COVID-19 patients, he said.  

Williams compared the current situation to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak while addressing the House Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday, saying the health care community had a similar two-phased approach to vaccinations at the time. 

“It was a similar situation: It hit in the spring, stayed in the summer and fall, and we got a vaccine and administered it in addition to the regular flu vaccine,” he said. “We’re very much trying to build our platform on how to distribute it to people.”

Williams said flu vaccination rates increased by 15 percent over the past two years and encouraged the governor to continue promoting the vaccine to Missourians. 

Williams said six COVID-19 vaccines are in development, including one manufactured by Pfizer in St. Louis. Washington and St. Louis universities are handling the clinical trials, according to Williams. 

Williams fielded questions from the committee over Missouri’s response to the virus, testing capacities, CARES Act funding, and positive case rates. He addressed the rising cases among young adults and in rural areas, encouraging cleanliness and social distancing practices for all Missourians.

Williams discussed the state as a whole in terms of a singular patient, saying the goal from the beginning was stabilization and learning as much about the virus as possible.

“We’re constantly learning,” he said. “When we’ve learned something new, we’ve adapted to it.”

Educators, including Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Margie Vandeven, also addressed the committee Tuesday, further discussing the school reopening process and the possibility of a teacher shortage in Missouri. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.