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St. Louisans hit the road to rural counties with 'extra' COVID vaccines

Events in McDonald County and Leopold, Missouri, had extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, so they put out a call for eligible people to come get the shot

ST. LOUIS — At least two rural Missouri counties hosting mass vaccination events Wednesday put out last-minute offers to anyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to show up and receive a shot. And despite hours-long drives, dozens of St. Louisans hit the road to take them up on an offer at a shot that seems more difficult to find in the metro area.

In southwest Missouri, the McDonald County Health Department Administrator Paige Behm told 5 On Your Side the county received 2,000 vaccines from the state for its Wednesday event. The county's entire population is a little more than 22,000.

"We asked for the state to come down and help us hold an event to try and get some more vaccine and arms because we don't have a hospital here," Behm said. "So, we didn't have as much access to vaccine and the state was gracious enough to send us 2,000 doses."

But, unlike the St. Louis region, the supply seemed to outpace the demand at the McDonald County event Wednesday. In a since-deleted post the county health department posted on Facebook "We have extra doses of vaccine available...please come to the health department right now."

Word of the surplus spread as far away as the St. Louis area on the other side of the state and people hit the road for a four-hour drive hoping to make it in time for a shot. 

"So many people," said Behm. "I'd say at least 50 to 100 came from St. Louis."

Two hours south of St. Louis another state vaccine event had more shots than patients. In Leopold, Missouri — population 65 — KFVS-TV reporter Alayna Chapie posted on Facebook that as of 4:40 in the afternoon of the 1,950 available doses only 648 had been administered. 

"We are making a lot of progress within the mass vaccination team to ensure these types of situations don’t occur moving forward," Department of Health and Senior Services spokesperson Lisa Cox told 5 On Your Side by email.

"Sometimes people do not show up for their appointments, and extras accumulate that way, and vaccinators always work to ensure no doses are wasted," Cox said. 

In McDonald County, even after the call went out that shots were available, Behm the administrator said they still had "a couple hundred" shots left. Those, she said, were sent to Springfield, Missouri, for a clinic to be held Thursday.