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Missouri holds ‘all hands on deck’ coronavirus vaccine drill


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Nearly 100 people from the federal government, state, and Missouri hospitals gathered for about four hours Thursday — some virtually but others in-person — to practice distributing COVID-19 vaccines. The team ran through hypothetical scenarios — such as what would happen if a snowstorm prevented Missourians from physically getting their allotted vaccine — and worked through any hitch that arose with the plan in place. 

This wasn’t the first time Missouri has held one of these drills, called “tabletops,” with federal partners related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was the first “all hands on deck tabletop” related to the distribution of the impending vaccine, said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

“It’s a public health measure. What we do is … just go through what the normal plan would be, making sure everybody understands that,” Williams said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “Then we look at what gaps there might be.”

Thursday’s tabletop lasted for about four hours and involved approximately 75 people — about 20 who were in-person at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Operations Center and another 55 over the phone. The tabletop involved state officials, hospital partners, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) personnel, and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Missouri holds “all hands on deck” COVID-19 vaccine drill, or “tabletop,” ahead of planned shipment. (PROVIDED)

During a recent readiness test in Colorado, health officials found a mock ancillary kit — containing vaccination cards, surgical masks, syringes, and more —was mistakenly sent to Kentucky. Health officials said the error did not hinder the rest of the simulation which was “completed and successful,” according to the Denver Post

In Missouri, Williams said officials were able to identify and fix one problem that arose: the number of vaccination sites. Originally, Missouri planned for 10 sites that would be able to appropriately house the vaccine — but not all of them were found to have the capacity to distribute it in 10 days. 

Now, 21 sites have been selected for the distribution of the first 51,000 doses of the vaccine. 

Missouri is slated to receive vaccinations for 51,000 individuals from Pfizer by around Dec. 15, FOX 2 reported earlier this week. And Williams said another 64,000 doses from Pfizer, as well as about 105,000 doses from Moderna, would arrive in Missouri about a week later. 

The extra doses from Pfizer, set to arrive about Dec. 21, will be distributed in a partnership with Walgreens, CVS, and the CDC, Williams said. Those will be used to vaccinate the state’s long term care residents and staff, a priority flagged by the CDC. Missouri has about 58,000 long term care residents, Williams said. 

With these vaccinations coming, Missouri is on track to vaccinate all long term care facility residents and staff by mid-January and all of the 300,000 health care workers by the end of January, Williams said. 

Aside from Thursday’s tabletop, officials have held near-daily contingency meetings about COVID-19 and the vaccine, Williams said. 

As of Friday morning, more than 18,000 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days and 89 people have died. With the positivity rate hovering just over 20 percent, more than 2,800 people are in the hospital, including 659 in the ICU and 368 on ventilators.