Missouri steamrolling over eligible seniors in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Georg Arthur Pflueger Tewwyarfcm4 Unsplash

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger

Half a million Missourians became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine even though data shows less than half of Missouri’s seniors have not received it.

Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard says 56% of ages 65-74, 42% of ages 75-84, and 57% of those over 85 years old have received at least their first dose. Over 664,000 people have completed the vaccination process in the state.

Phase 1B-Tier 3 was activated Monday allowing more than half a million people, including teachers and critical infrastructure workers, to be vaccinated. However, health experts say seniors should remain the priority especially since not all have been vaccinated.

“Physician leaders from across our state of Missouri are all on the same bandwagon: we must prioritize our seniors,” says Mary Anne Jackson, an infectious disease specialist and dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

Missouri has not had the best track record when it comes to vaccination distribution. In February the COVID-19 vaccine registration site launched with distressingly limited functionality and a town with 65 residents received nearly 2,000 vaccines for unknown reasons.

Jan Sanderson has been diligently tracking down vaccination appointments for her Lee’s Summit retirement community.

“With another half a million people, how are we ever going to get the people on my street vaccinated?” Sanderson says.

Many residents at Cedar Creek Village, where Sanderson moved with her husband two years ago, do not know how to navigate the internet to find vaccine appointments. She spends hours on some days looking for appointments at pharmacies, hospitals, and health departments.

A vaccine may not be guaranteed even if an appointment is secured. Some of Sanderson’s neighbors have had appointments canceled or arrive to find lines too long for them to stand in.

The difficulty of getting a shot has been discouraging for Sanderson’s neighbor Joan Haigh.

“It always seems to be a headache or a hiccup along the way,” Haigh says. “You know, like, why even try?”

Vaccine hesitancy among Sanderson’s neighbors and most seniors appears to be a relatively minor issue most likely because of their higher risk for severe illness. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports death is 2,800 times more likely to occur in the 75-84 age group. For those over 85 death is 7,900 times more likely.

“We’re in the group of people that die,” Sanderson says.

The spread of more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variants increases the urgency for seniors to be vaccinated. Recent data has shown nursing home cases have plummeted by 82% as more seniors across the country are being vaccinated.

“In the meantime, what we’re trying to do is keep people out of the hospital and keep people from dying,” Jackson says. “So that’s why this particular segment of our population, and those with underlying additional medical conditions, are so important to prioritize right now.”


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