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Parson announces vaccine distribution changes

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More COVID-19 vaccines soon will be available at pharmacies and in urban areas, Gov. Mike Parson announced in a news conference late last week.

Starting March 8, 15% of the state's vaccine supply will be sent to 161 participating pharmacies in 84 counties.

Although Parson did not say which pharmacies or counties would receive this allotment, he did say it will target "vulnerable communities" and areas with low levels of vaccines. Some pharmacies in Missouri have already been administering vaccines, but this will mark the first time they will receive them from the state's supply.

Parson credited the introduction of Johnson & Johnson's recently approved single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with making this new distribution avenue possible. The state will receive about 50,000 doses of that vaccine next week, the governor said.

"(We) continue to get great news on the vaccine front," Parson said.

Parson also acknowledged unequal demand for the vaccine across the state.

"We do recognize that some Missourians are less interested in receiving the vaccine than others," Parson said, noting people in urban areas tend to be more eager to be vaccinated.

Because of this, Parson said the National Guard will begin to administer vaccines at more mass-vaccination sites in St. Louis and Kansas City starting next week. Although this is not an increase in the amount of vaccine distributed to those areas, mass-vaccination events make it easier for people to more quickly get the vaccine.

Parson also noted positive statistics, including a continued decline in cases and hospitalizations. He emphasized that Missouri has the second-lowest number of average daily cases in the United States.

Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said a "balanced approach" is "what makes Missouri different" from states with higher daily cases. He also credited the people of Missouri.

Williams and Parson both painted an optimistic look forward.

"In the months of April and May, we think we're going to have a very large amount of the vaccine," Williams said, referencing comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden, who said that the United States would have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May.

That said, both officials cautioned the importance of continued vigilance.

"There is no doubt there is still more work to be done," Parson said.

Earlier Thursday, Parson toured the Pfizer facility in St. Louis, where some of the company's COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured.

"Missouri has a piece of that vaccine," Parson said. "It's saving lives all over the world."

Parson and Williams also addressed concerns that young people would "jump the line" and fraudulently claim to be in a group which has been approved to receive a vaccine. Both said it likely will happen, but they didn't see it being a widespread issue.

"I think Missourians are better than that," Parson said, though he did acknowledge that line jumping could not be prevented. "I have to trust them to do the right thing."

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