As this year’s Missouri State Fair gets underway, visitors will have the chance to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on the fairgrounds thanks to the quick coordination of local health officials.
As positive case rates increased across the country along with concern over the new delta variant, the State Fair Commission made the decision to offer vaccines just weeks before the event began.
“Just a few months ago, people were really thinking COVID was going away when the vaccines became available, but obviously there’s been a turnaround in that and people are concerned — and rightfully so,” State Fair Director Mark Wolfe said. “We don’t want the fair to be dominated by that conversation, but at the same time we thought as a public service we had the opportunity to set up and offer information and the chance to get a vaccination.”
Wolfe and the commission were guided by the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and coordinated with Katy Trail Health, Bothwell Hospital, and the Pettis County Health Department to figure out the logistics. Pettis County Health Department Administrator JoAnn Martin said the local teams were prepared to offer vaccinations despite the short notice.
“We were able to come together quickly to offer vaccinations on the fairgrounds,” Martin told The Missouri Times. “All three of our groups have been active in providing vaccines in our community, from large vaccination clinics to mobile programs. Recently we’ve focused on going out into the community and providing vaccines to those who are homebound, and we were ready to adapt when the fair commission came to us.”
Martin, who had worked vaccination events on the fairgrounds and around the community since the vaccine became widely available, said the department was working closely with fair staff to provide the opportunity. Martin said the groups were thankful to see the fair return and happy to provide fairgoers with the chance to receive a vaccine.
“We’re blessed to be able to work together and get things done so quickly. We have a lot of experience working together on vaccinations over the past few months, and we really have a great system in place where we can provide opportunities like this,” Martin said. “We’re just hopeful the fair goes well and that everyone enjoys it.”
Fairgoers will have the chance to receive either the Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer vaccine. COVID-19 tests are also available the Mondays before and after the fair on the grounds in collaboration with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
There is no mask mandate in place for this year’s fair, but hand sanitizing stations and optional masks will be scattered around the grounds. State Fair Marketing Director Kari Mergen encouraged people to use their best judgment when deciding whether to attend, noting the festivities will largely take place outdoors.
Missouri has emphasized the vaccines as positive case rates increase across the country. The state recently enacted a vaccine incentive program giving 900 Missourians the opportunity to receive cash and prizes for receiving a vaccine. Local health departments will also receive $11 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide $25 incentives for vaccine recipients.
Vaccines will be available every day of the fair except the final Sunday from 4-7 p.m. at a booth in the Mathewson Exhibition Center.
Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.
Contact Cameron at email@example.com.