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First batch of COVID-19 vaccines expected within days in St. Louis County

The first batch will go to local hospital systems, which will then decide who should get the shots first

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County is expecting to get its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this week, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday morning. Some of the highest priority people could get vaccinated by the end of the month.

The first batch will go to local hospital systems, which will then decide who should get the shots first.

“There will not be enough in the first shipment to vaccinate all of the hospital workers,” Page explained. “They will be vaccinated in shifts and the hospitals will decide on who’s the priority.”

The county executive said he expects hospitals will prioritize doctors and nurses who work in emergency rooms and intensive care units.

“Over time, over a period of a month or two, we hope the hospitals will be able to vaccinate all of their doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and other staff that are on the front lines taking care of some very sick people,” Page said.

Residents and employees in long-term care facilities also are at the top of the priority list for coronavirus vaccines. Page explained those facilities have contracts through national pharmacies, which will then distribute the doses.

As far as the general public goes, Page said wide distribution will take several months.

The leading vaccine candidates by Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna are still waiting on FDA approval to use in the United States.

READ ALSO: Missouri health leaders update vaccine timeline

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health is working on an outreach program to make sure the most vulnerable residents understand the importance of getting the vaccine and have access to getting it.

St. Louis County also has secured three more ultracold standup freezers that are needed to store the vaccines. These additional freezers can hold about 76,000 doses, Page said. The county also is working with a local company to have two more freezers as backups.

“We’re doing all we can to be ready for when the vaccine comes our way,” the county executive said Wednesday.

Watch Page's full briefing in the YouTube video below:

Last Friday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director said nearly 340,000 Missourians will be to get their first dose by the end of the month.

Dr. Randall Williams said Missouri has secured enough doses to administer initial shots to all of the state’s frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents and workers before the end of the year.

“We have a commitment that much is coming,” said Dr. Williams. “Every person gets vaccinated, we're one step closer. So that's our mission.”

This first group includes everyone in category “1A” as defined in Missouri’s Vaccine Distribution Plan. All states were required to submit one to the CDC, and Dr. Williams says he was invited to the White House next week to discuss Missouri’s leadership in this phase of Operation Warp Speed.

The first round of Pfizer doses are expected around Dec. 12, followed by the first batch of Moderna's vaccine about a week later. Moderna’s will go to rural and smaller hospitals, where they've agreed to wait a few more days for shots that are easier to store (due to a higher required refrigeration temperature than Pfizer’s.)