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Missouri congressional delegation seeks FEMA help with coronavirus vaccine

  

Republican members of Missouri’s congressional delegation have asked the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to rural and underserved communities. 

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley joined U.S. Representatives Sam Graves, Vicky Hartzler, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Jason Smith, and Ann Wagner in sending a letter to Peter Gaynor, the acting secretary of Homeland Security; and Bob Fenton, the senior FEMA official Friday. 

The delegation said Missouri specifically needs transportation and distribution assistance with the vaccine. They suggested supplemental funding FEMA has received from Congress “should be used within the state and region for its intended purpose — to help get vaccines into the field.” 

“While Missouri has administered nearly half of the doses that have been distributed to the state — a statistic on par with the majority of other states — the logistical challenges of transporting and administering multiple doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to underserved parts of the state remains a challenge, as well as to other states within [FEMA] Region 7,” the letter said

“It appears that the special challenges which correspond to states with significant rural and underserved populations were not accounted for by the federal government,” it said. “This may be why no state within FEMA Region 7 currently falls within the top half of the CDC’s list vaccination.” 

FEMA Region 7 encompasses Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The delegation said the federal emergency funding signed into law in December included $17 billion earmarked for FEMA for aid to states on vaccine administration and distribution.  

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A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked Missouri last in terms of vaccine distribution of the initial dose. 

As of Friday evening, more than 457,000 total doses (including the first and second) have been administered in Missouri. More than 350,500 people have received at least one dose in the state; 5.7 percent of the population has received at least one dose, according to state data

Gov. Mike Parson said the state will begin to take doses previously given to CVS and Walgreens by the federal government to vaccinate those living and working in long-term care facilities that are not being used. 

Hawley has requested a briefing with representatives from both pharmacies regarding the status of the partnership. He sent letters to the CEOs of both CVS and Walgreens as well on Friday.