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Cape Girardeau County leading in COVID-19 vaccinations in Missouri

According to a new state dashboard on COVID-19 vaccinations, Cape Girardeau County has vaccinated a greater percentage of its residents than any other county in Missouri.

As of Feb. 1, the dashboard from the Department of Health and Senior Services shows that 12.5 percent of Cape Girardeau County’s residents have received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Maria Davis, health educator for the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, said she was thrilled that the county was rated first in vaccinations in the state, as well as being above the national average.

According to federal data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 7.6 percent of the United States population have been vaccinated.

“We’ve been vaccinating people as quickly as possible,” Davis said. “There are seven vaccinators in the county, and we’ve been working with all of them to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

The public health center, with the assistance of the Missouri National Guard, vaccinated 1,848 people with the Pfizer vaccine on Friday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. The event was the largest vaccination clinic in the county so far.

The Missouri National Guard began assisting DHSS and other state partners in establishing COVID-19 vaccination sites across the state, with vaccination teams assigned to each of Missouri’s nine highway patrol regions.

The southeast region, led by officer Drew Gallucci, held the first of these events on Jan. 22 in Poplar Bluff. Gallucci said his team of 30 airmen offered a support function to the local health center, providing traffic control and event logistics. The team also assisted attendees with registration forms and helped move them through the vaccination stations.

Gallucci said he was excited to be a part of the vaccination team, saying all members volunteered. “Whether they were personally affected by COVID or not, all of us wanted a chance to give back to our community,” he said.

The southeast regional team of the Missouri National Guard will assist with vaccinations in Caruthersville this week, before going back to Poplar Bluff to assist with second vaccination doses the following week.

They will return to Cape Girardeau on Feb. 19 to assist with vaccinating second doses for those who attended the event on Friday.

Gallucci said his team also includes three individuals who have gone to smaller clinics throughout the region to assist with necessary administrative work related to COVID-19 vaccinations.

In addition to the Missouri National Guard, Davis said they were able to partner with other vaccinators in the county and with Southeast Missouri State University nursing students. Representatives from John’s Pharmacy, Broadway Pharmacy, South-eastHEALTH and Cross Trails Medical Center helped give vaccines on Friday.

“Everybody has really come together around here in this community,” Davis said. “We just want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and we are willing to help whoever we can.”

Davis added that the work being done by Cape Girardeau County vaccinators has been able to help not just county residents, but those in nearby counties and states. Neighboring Scott County is currently ranked second on the state dashboard, with 11.8 percent of residents receiving the first COVID-19 shot as of Jan. 31.

“We received vaccines through the state as a health department, and we have redistributed that to local partners and other county health departments,” Davis said. She added that since this is a federal vaccine, they are vaccinating anyone who meets the tiers that are active in Missouri.

Almost 400,000 Missouri residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while around 118,000 have received their second dose. According to the CDC, Missouri is currently ranked 49th in distributing the first vaccine dose, but is around the national average in percentage of residents who have received both doses of the vaccine.

Davis said the vaccination effort requires a lot of resources and planning, and the public health center has been planning how to scale up their efforts for months.

“We do flu clinics every year, but this is just a little bit different logistically” Davis said. Unlike flu vaccination clinics, those who receive the vaccine are required to wait 15 minutes after receiving their shot to make sure no side effects occur. In addition, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a larger space is necessary for vaccination clinics to allow social distancing throughout.

Davis added that they are ready to increase their efforts further but are currently waiting for more vaccines to be supplied.

The Missouri COVID-19 vaccination dashboard can be found at showmestrong.mo.gov/data/public-health/vaccine.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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