KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mayor of Missouri's largest city has asked the federal government to make sure the state's urban residents get better access to coronavirus vaccines.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Tuesday tweeted a copy of his two-page letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In it, he wrote that the federal government has plans to set up 18 mass vaccination sites around the country, but none of them are in Missouri. He asked that Kansas City be added to the list.
"Federally-managed events, such as those your agency has begun conducting in municipalities across the nation, will provide all Kansas Citians a fairer shot at keeping themselves and their families safe regardless of race, socio-economic status, or access to healthcare, internet, or ability to drive long distances for vaccination opportunities," Lucas wrote.
The letter comes as some officials in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas contend that the state is favoring rural areas in vaccine distribution, which Republican Gov. Mike Parson and other state officials vehemently deny.
Missouri is distributing vaccine based on the state's nine highway patrol regions, and Parson has insisted that each region is getting its share based on population. But thousands of urban residents have taken to traveling to small towns to get shots.
State statistics on Wednesday showed that while 14.5% of Missourians have received at least one shot, the percentage is smaller in the urban areas — 11.3% in Jackson County, 13.5% in St. Louis County, 9.7% in St. Louis city.
"The state's unavailability of the vaccine was, and continues to be, compounded by an environment of resident confusion riddled with misinformation, competing eligibility lists, and broad-based distribution plans based primarily on our competing hospital systems in metropolitan areas of Missouri without compulsory collaboration," Lucas wrote.
Lucas told the Kansas City Star that he was not trying to circumvent the state by appealing directly to FEMA, but was simply trying to get more vaccine to the people of his city.
"To suggest that our vaccination process in Missouri has worked in a fair and equitable way is to have blinders on," Lucas said. "I understand that this is new for the governor as it's new for me as it's new for every health director in the state of Missouri."
The state on Wednesday reported 687 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, pushing its pandemic total to 479,069. It also reported that its weekly review of death certificates found 225 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths — two in October, one in November, four in December, 153 in January and 65 in February. The state's COVID-19 death toll stands at 8,148.