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Williams: Missourians could return to normal activities by summer


Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams said he expected conditions to improve as more Missourians receive the coronavirus vaccine

“I truly believe that by the time we get to July, every Missourian in the state who wants a vaccine will have had one,” he said. “We believe once that happens, we should at that point be at herd immunity which is about 75 percent of the population has either had the disease or has had a vaccination. We think that come August, July, that we will resume many normal activities.”

Williams and Robert Knodell, Gov. Mike Parson’s deputy chief of staff, appeared on Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” from the state Capitol to discuss the vaccine and its rollout in Missouri. 

Last week, Parson announced Phase 1B Tier 3 of the state’s vaccination plan will begin March 15, opening the vaccine to K-12 educators and school employees, as well as child care providers, energy and agriculture workers, grocery store employees, and other critical infrastructure workers. Parson approximated around 550,000 more Missourians would be eligible for vaccination. 

Williams said both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines offer recipients 95 percent effectiveness to prevent hospitalization, and the recently approved Johnson and Johnson version was expected to have the same effectiveness.  

“All three vaccines have gone through a very rigorous safety examination,” Williams said. “My team will be looking at it Sunday to put all that together, and if like Pfizer and Moderna we think it’s safe and effective, we will issue an order and start receiving vaccines next week.”

Williams noted that people who had been vaccinated were still advised to wear masks and social distance as a precaution for the time being. 

As of Monday, more than 849,800 Missourians had received an initial dose, and more than 1,287,000 had been fully inoculated. 

Local control

State Reps. Ashley Aune, Betsy Fogle, and Aaron Griesheimer joined this week’s panel alongside Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin to discuss COVID-19, the vaccine, and Missouri’s emphasis on local control over the past year. 

“I think we can all acknowledge this is a complex issue,” Fogle said. “To speak to my background in public health a little bit, I think we need to take a step back and look at our funding structures for places like our public health agencies. We rank last in the country for per capita spending in local public health aid, and I think that became evident this year.”

Tergin said working with other officials in her city had been a major factor in the decision-making process during the pandemic.

“Our goal has been to be an example to other cities throughout the state, being the capital city, and what we’ve done has been very successful,” she said, noting city officials worked with local hospitals and health departments to make decisions and inform the public. “We also have ways to utilize getting the message out, but the only reason it works is because we’re collaborative.”

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the audio version here.