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Lawmakers, staff receive COVID-19 vaccinations meant for other state employees

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Some Missouri lawmakers and their staff were able to get the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday after they were informed doses were being administered at the nearly Capitol Plaza Hotel. The problem? The vaccines technically weren’t meant for them. 

Missouri is in Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, which includes first responders, emergency management and public works employees, individuals over 65 years old, and more. 

But as a rumor spread around the Capitol building Wednesday that vaccines were available, multiple members and their staff took their state IDs and got the first dose. 

Minority Leader Crystal Quade said she was on the House floor when she began to get messages from a senator, another representative, and other staffers: Vaccines were available for all state employees at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. Quade ultimately went to the hotel and confirmed with those working that all state employees were eligible — so she alerted those in her caucus. 

“Vaccines are currently at capitol plaza hotel [sic] for state employees. Must have employee ID,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in an email to representatives and staffers at noon. 

Dana Rademan Miller, chief clerk of the House, later sent an email to those in the building clarifying that the doses were meant for Department of Public Safety and Department of Transportation employees “who were within eligible tiers for the vaccine.” 

“We have been working with [the Department of Health and Senior Services] to implement both testing and vaccination plans and will notify every member and employee when vaccinations are available for those who are eligible to receive one,” Miller said shortly after 1 p.m. 

The vaccination confusion was just another example of a breakdown in communication Wednesday, which was also the day of Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address. Parson ultimately gave a speech from the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon after his office said it was no longer able to use the House as planned. 

“This is even more of an example of the failure of the Parson administration to give clear guidance and answer questions,” Quade, who received the first dose of the vaccine, told The Missouri Times. “When state employees don’t know what’s going on, how can we expect members of the general public to know?”

Some members who received the vaccine Wednesday said they were told health care workers had already vaccinated everyone who fell into the appropriate category, and the doses would otherwise go to waste. 

“Since my Republican colleagues won’t take the proper actions to keep … everyone safe, I decided to get the shot,” Rep. Rasheen Aldridge said on social media, noting both he and his legislative assistant got vaccinated. “With Missouri being ranked the last state to get vaccinations out, we must do better so no Missourians have the same fear I have every day when I come to work.” 

Democratic state Rep. Ashley Aune also received a dose Wednesday. She said a packed and lengthy House hearing the night before — where many people did not wear masks — was the catalyst for her decision. 

“It was the least safe I felt since this pandemic started,” Aune told The Missouri Times. “Today, when I was offered to get the vaccine, I jumped at the chance knowing that this is my daily reality now.” 

The Missouri Legislature has only been in session for three weeks, but already the House has canceled its proceedings for a week due to a COVID-19 outbreak, and the original plans for the State of the State address were scrapped at the last minute because of coronavirus. Sen. Andrew Koenig said last week he tested positive and two senators, Bill Eigel and John Rizzo, are in isolation after being exposed to someone who is ill. 

It’s unclear how many lawmakers were able to get vacinnated Wedesday. By nearly 6 p.m., the line at the hotel was still lengthy.