JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Phase 1B of Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort began Thursday, opening the vaccine to the state’s first responders and emergency services employees.
The first tier of Phase 1B will see vaccines distributed to law enforcement, EMS, and fire services in addition to public works employees and non-patient-facing health care workers.
“Beginning the activation of Phase 1B is all about saving lives and protecting those most vulnerable to exposure and illness from this virus,” Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement. “We are looking forward to increased vaccine supply in the coming weeks as supply is the leading factor that dictates our movement through our plan. The more supply we receive, the quicker we can reach our goal of making vaccines available to every Missourian who wants one.”
The second tier of Phase 1B, scheduled to begin Monday, will allow high-risk individuals including Missourians over the age of 65 and those with preexisting conditions to receive the vaccine. Individuals with cancer, COPD, developmental disabilities, weakened immune systems, and heart conditions are among those included in the second tier.
Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams, who authorized the order, said the move was based on guidelines established by the federal government as well as goals for the state’s distribution plan.
“We know one of the most common questions among Missourians right now is when it will be their turn to be vaccinated, and we are greatly encouraged by the interest in the vaccines from the public,” said Williams. “Each day, our team is monitoring the amount of vaccine available and making sure it is distributed so that people can receive the vaccine as quickly as possible. We are so thankful to our hundreds of clinical partners throughout the state who are making that happen.”
Missouri recently enacted a new rule allowing pharmacy technicians to administer the vaccine in an effort to increase vaccination rates. A House bill up for consideration this session would allow dentists to do the same for existing patients.
The third tier of Phase 1B, which will cover educators, utility workers, the government sector, and other critical infrastructure workers does not have an activation date as of Thursday.
Missouri began Phase 1A in mid-December after receiving its first 50,000 dose shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 100,000 doses of Moderna’s version. More than 160,000 initial doses of the vaccine have been administered in Missouri as of Thursday morning, according to Parson, and around 22,000 people have received both doses. The state will continue vaccinating those included in Phase 1A as the plan progresses.