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St. Louis experts weigh in on why Missouri and Illinois rank near bottom of COVID-19 vaccinations

Why aren't Missourians and Illinoisans getting their shots? Experts say it comes down to organization

ST. LOUIS — Dead last. That's the ranking Missouri's been given when it comes to vaccine rollout compared to other states. Illinois isn't far behind, ranking 44th according to CDC data compiled by the New York Times.

"I wasn't surprised," Affinia Healthcare's Chief Operating Officer Dr. Kendra Holmes said. "Unfortunately we lag behind in a lot of health outcomes."

Not only was Dr. Kendra Holmes expecting a dismal report for Missouri, but she would have been surprised if the numbers were better. 

"I would have been shocked if we were doing better," Holmes said, "I am on the front lines and I see how the distribution is going."

Affinia Healthcare received their requested allotment of doses, but many providers haven't. The City of St. Louis' long wait will end Tuesday. Dr. Holmes said the delay for St. Louis is "very concerning."

Dr. Michael Kinch is a Vice Chancellor of Washington University's Institute for Public Health. He said Missouri's faults lie in a failure to organize operations and logistics. 

Dr. Kinch believes Missouri, Illinois (which isn't doing much better than Missouri at vaccinations) and the US as a whole should take a page out of other countries' books.

RELATED: City of St. Louis to get its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday

"A great example is the country of Israel. There's been a coordinated effort among local, state and national entities to be able to identify who needs the vaccine and to get it to them as efficiently as possible," explains Dr. Kinch.

The Washington University Professor said Missouri's excuses of not enough vaccine and slow reporting of the numbers don't explain the shortfalls recognized by the CDC.

"Frankly, my understanding is that Missouri has received its share of the vaccine," Dr. Kinch said. "We really do need to demand of our lawmakers and officials that it is time to do this better."

When it comes to speeding up the vaccination process in both Missouri and Illinois, both Dr. Kinch and Dr. Holmes said coordination is key. 

"We need much better coordination," Dr. Kinch said. "We need much better efficiency and we need much better communication."

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released a statement in response to the state's ranking:

As we have seen in many nationwide rankings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (ie. cases, testing), we expect rankings by state of vaccine administration to continue to ebb and flow as the difference in rates among many states is marginal. Currently, for instance, Missouri has the tenth lowest rate for new COVID-19 cases in the country with both PCR and antigen testing combined (sixth when only accounting for the state’s confirmed PCR-tested cases).

The total amount of vaccines shipped to Missouri (as of 1/25/21) are 661,400, of those 304,434 (46%) have not been reported or administered. To date, over 351,000 doses have been administered, and 4.4% of the eligible population have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

The limited allotments that our state receives continues to limit the rate at which people are vaccinated, but we have also become aware that some of Missouri’s vaccinators have not been administering vaccinations as efficiently as we have been asking, but we are working with these providers to increase the speed at which they get vaccines into arms. With that said, state-enrolled vaccinators in Missouri have administered over 60% of the doses shipped into the state for their use.

A large amount of the distributed amount sits with the federal pharmacy partnership which was activated to serve long-term care staff and residents. To date, unfortunately, the federal partnership has administered only 17% of those shots. 332,000 doses have been allocated to this program with CVS and Walgreens. Of those 211,400 doses have been ordered by the participating pharmacies, and 56,498 doses have been administered in 920 clinics throughout the state, based on their reporting.

The State of Missouri interagency vaccination planning team is responsible for determining where vaccines go throughout the state based on the limited amount of vaccine allotted each week to Missouri. The State places vaccine orders through federal partners on behalf of providers throughout Missouri who make vaccine requests through us, and then vaccines are shipped in the days following directly to the providers who vaccinate Missourians. The State of Missouri does NOT store or distribute the vaccines and ancillary supplies.