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Missouri vaccine participation likely around 60% for groups eligible, officials hope numbers improve

Registered nurse Ben Ojie rolled up his sleeve Monday for the second of the two-shot vaccine process, an opportunity others have passed on

ST. LOUIS — When Mercy's Ben Ojie rolled up his sleeve Monday, the registered nurse became one of the first people in the St. Louis area to complete the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine rollout has been slow because of lags in supply, but St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force head Dr. Alex Garza tells 5 On Your Side he thinks upwards of 90% of area health care workers got the vaccine when they became eligible for it.

"So far it looks pretty good," Garza said.

After a call with state health leader Dr. Randall Williams last week, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Randall expects the Missouri number is likely much lower, though there is also reason to expect it will rise.

"Initially, it was expected it might not much more than half. He's looking at probably 60% percent," Krewson said in her Monday briefing. "As more and more people receive the vaccine with little or no ill effects, then hopefully it will be more accepted."

Spokesperson Lisa Cox told 5 On Your Side in an email that 60% is an anecdotal number, adding "just because someone declined it or wasn’t available to receive it at one time doesn’t mean they can’t still receive it tomorrow, next week or next month."

Cox said 91,000 Missourians have their first doses, about 20% of the people who are eligible in Tier 1A. 

Numbers seem to fluctuate in other, non-geographic ways as well.

In a statement, StoneBridge Senior Living spokesperson Craig Workman said two of their St. Louis-area facilities held vaccine clinics last week with resident vaccination rates close to 90% in each location. 

Staff rates were much lower, coming in around 40%, but Workman adds "we are encouraging all residents and staff to be vaccinated, but we respect those who may decline out of caution over side effects and other health concerns.  We are providing information on the vaccines to all residents and staff so they are able to make an informed decision.”

It's too early to say when older Missourians outside healthcare can sign up, but Cox said considering the possibility of appointment-based vaccinations to avoid some of the long lines and wait times seen in other states.

"There's still a lot of questions out there about how we're actually going to be able to do this," Garza said. "Certainly, you don't want it to be like a free-for-all." 

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.