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St. Louisans continue crisscrossing the state for coronavirus vaccines

The City of St. Louis is preparing for its biggest vaccination events, but many are still traveling long distances to secure a shot sooner

ST. LOUIS — John and Maryann Durnien carried sack lunches to their car before daybreak on Patrick's Day prepared for their four-and-a-half-hour drive to Princeton, Missouri. The couple joined the caravan of St. Louis-area residents who are crossing the state for a coronavirus vaccine.

"We jumped at the chance, we did not hesitate at all," Durnien said of the journey. "We were very very anxious to get the vaccine."

Roughly 280 miles from their home, Princeton is far closer to Des Moines (90 miles) than St. Louis, but she said the trip was "absolutely worth it."

Like so many other STL-area residents, the Durniens weren't having luck with local registries and saw this as their best shot at a shot.

Their daughter was also on the road Wednesday, taking her own two-hour trip to Salem, near Rolla.

"We did not know if we would be able to get a shot in St. Louis so we were so happy when we got this appointment even though is so far away. We want to get the vaccination and we want to get our lives back. We're willing to take the drive. It seems like a small price to pay," Maryann Durnien said.

When the City of St. Louis opens its mass vaccination clinic at America's Center this weekend, they'll have the space for bigger clinics and expect supply to increase too.

"We're getting more and more vaccines, and the state is getting more and more vaccines," Mayor Lyda Krewson said during a Wednesday afternoon briefing, adding there was another issue on the horizon: staffing.

"We were on the pandemic task force meeting yesterday afternoon, and every county that was on that call could use vaccinators," Krewson said.

But because the St. Louis city and county vaccinations rates are comparatively low when stacked up against much of the rest of Missouri, local leaders have said they are not ready to open appointments to people in Tier 3. Gov. Mike Parson opened that category Monday.

Krewson's briefing came just as the Durniens were set to pull back into St. Louis, more than nine hours after their departure. Maryann said she would be ready to celebrate their vaccinations and St. Patrick's Day.

"You know I couldn't have any green beer today, but I had a shot. It wasn't a shot of Jameson, but it was good enough," Durnien said with a laugh.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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