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St. Louis mayor urges Parson to expand vaccine access


St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson called on the state’s chief executive to supply more pharmacies in her city with the COVID-19 vaccine Friday — but the Parson administration said it’s out of its control. 

“The most pressing part of this problem is the distribution and availability of vaccines,” Krewson said in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson and Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams. “To date, the City of St. Louis has had some success in working with our community health partners to get vaccine into the arms of those qualifying individuals in need… However, the demand for the vaccine at this point still greatly outpaces the supply, and the city of St. Louis needs partners at the ready once supply is sufficient enough to get shots into people’s arms.”

Williams told lawmakers this week that the federal government would be pairing with Walmart and Health Mart pharmacies to distribute the vaccine going forward, having previously partnered with Walgreens and CVS. Saying there were no Walmarts and only three Health Mart locations within her city, Krewson asked the executives to extend the order to Walgreens and CVS to better provide for the city’s 300,000 citizens.

“The City of St. Louis has had conversations with both CVS and Walgreens representatives, and have identified them to be able to build the capability to exceed 5,000 doses per week in locations throughout the city,” she said. “This will allow the city to both strategically and equitably deploy vaccines in areas that have the most need.”

The nearest Walmart in Missouri is in Florissant. 

A spokeswoman for Parson said the choice of locations was a decision from the federal government and was not within the state’s control.

“The state of Missouri did not select the pharmacy chains to participate in the federal retail pharmacy partnership,” she told The Missouri Times. “The federal government chose those pharmacies. The state of Missouri is working with local offices and healthcare providers to ensure equitable distribution of available vaccine supply through all of our distribution channels.”

Missouri is currently in the second tier of Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, which began last month. The latest tier opened the vaccine to high-risk individuals including Missourians over the age of 65 and those with preexisting conditions. Individuals with cancer, COPD, developmental disabilities, weakened immune systems, and heart conditions are among those included in the latest group. Williams said he hoped to see the third tier, which will include educators and critical infrastructure workers, at some point in the spring.