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Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations begins in Cape Girardeau County

Thousands were able to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination this past week in Cape Girardeau County, as vaccinations opened for high-risk individuals including people 65 years old or older.

Four vaccinators in the county held COVID-19 vaccination clinics last week – including SoutheastHEALTH, Saint Francis Medical Center, the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center and Broadway/Park Pharmacy.

All vaccination clinics were by appointment only, with SoutheastHEALTH, the Public Health Center and Broadway Pharmacy hosting online wait lists. Saint Francis Medical Center opened a hotline to take vaccination appointments.

The State of Missouri has been vaccinating health care workers and long-term care residents and staff members since the middle of December, as phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan. The first tier of phase 1B became eligible for vaccinations in Missouri on Jan. 14, and the second tier of phase 1B was activated on Jan. 18.

Phase 1B – Tier 1 includes first responders, public health professionals and others who help keep Missourians safe during an emergency. Phase 1B – Tier 2 focuses on those most at risk of severe illness, including those with various health conditions and anyone aged 65 or older.

Dr. John Russell, medical director of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, said during the Public Health Center’s monthly meeting on Jan. 19 that all long-term care facilities in the county have been contacted and scheduled for vaccines. He added that most facilities have had at least one round of doses.

Russell said about 90 percent of long-term care residents who have been offered the vaccine have gotten it, while only 40 percent of long-term care staff have accepted the vaccine. He added that around 50 to 55 percent of health care workers in the county have accepted the vaccine.

“That’s a little less than I would like to see, but not unexpected at this stage of the game,” Russell said. “We continue to pick up more of tier 1A healthcare workers as we go on with vaccines, partly because they have now seen their colleagues get the vaccine and not have their arm fall off or get horribly sick or ill.”

Further vaccination clinics are planned in the county, including one by the Missouri National Guard on Friday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. Russell said the county is expecting to receive 2,000 vaccinations during that event.

Gov. Mike Parson announced during a briefing at the State Capital on Jan. 20 that the Missouri National Guard would begin assisting the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and other state partners in establishing COVID-19 vaccination sites across the state.

Mass vaccination teams were assigned to each of Missouri’s nine highway patrol regions, with the southeast region holding the first of these events on Jan. 22 in Poplar Bluff.

Cape Girardeau County Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler said representatives from the County Public Health Center and Southeast Missouri State University observed the event in Poplar Bluff to prepare for the Missouri National Guard’s visit on Friday.

In addition, vaccinators in the county have begun to administer second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those in phase 1A. Russell said all vaccinators have been guaranteed second doses of the vaccine – meaning everyone who has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to receive their second dose from the same provider. The Pfizer vaccine’s second dose is scheduled three weeks after the first dose and the Moderna vaccine’s second dose is scheduled four weeks after the initial dose.

Additional information about the vaccine and the state’s vaccination phases can be found at www.MOStops-Covid.com.

SoutheastHEALTH

SoutheastHEALTH held vaccination clinics on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and Friday, Jan. 22, at the Jackson Civic Center. Around 800 people were able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine each day. SoutheastHEALTH was also able to vaccinate around 250 people at Southeast Primary Care West in Cape Girardeau.

SoutheastHEALTH has been a pre-positioning site for the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine since mid-December, and over the past two months has deployed over 4,000 doses of the vaccine throughout southeast Missouri.

SoutheastHEALTH President and CEO Ken Bateman said the organization stepped up to the challenge of serving as a pre-positioning site because of “our ongoing commitment to the good health of our region. We are pleased that we have thus far reached more than 4,000 Missouri residents and we look forward to expanding our vaccination efforts as supplies increase.”

Bateman said that until there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants one, “we have to prioritize the supply of Pfizer vaccine made available to us. Missouri’s plan, as it should, focuses on first vaccinating our most vulnerable citizens.”

Based on new federal guidance, he added that Southeast is confident that vaccine supplies will continue to arrive and be distributed in an efficient and timely manner.

To sign up for the Pfizer COVID-19 waiting list at SoutheastHEALTH, visit SEhealth.org/COVID.

Shauna Hoffman, vice president of marketing and busness development, said SoutheastHEALTH looks at their upcoming vaccine shipment before reaching out to those eligible who have signed up to the wait list.

“Once we know our next week’s allocation, based on the current tier group we are working on, we will communicate to those individuals accordingly via e-mail,” Hoffman said.

For those who do not have Internet access, they can call SoutheastHEALTH’s COVID-19 hotline (573-519-4983) to be added to the wait list. “Our hotline individuals will help them get signed up on the waiting list,” she said.

Saint Francis Healthcare System

Saint Francis Healthcare System began administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The healthcare system was able to provide around 1,200 doses of the vaccine on Jan. 20 and administer its entire supply of around 4,700 doses by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Stephanie La Pierre, chief nursing and clinical officer at Saint Francis, said Saint Francis opened its phone line for appointments when they received the vaccines on Jan. 19 and all doses were scheduled within 15 hours.

“We are, day by day, inviting COVID to leave our community,” La Pierre said. “Patients are so thankful. Some patients have had to wait or call back several times to get scheduled, but each and everyone was so respectful and so overwhelmingly grateful.”

Saint Francis had 20 vaccinators at their clinic, with each vaccinator giving at least six vaccines an hour. “We’ve had clinics since the Dec. 18, anywhere from 350 to a couple hundred, but this is the first day that we’re opening up to 1,200 in a nine hour period,” La Pierre said on Jan 20. “We’ve even been surprised about our efficiencies today.”

In addition to the second doses already scheduled, La Pierre said the hospital has already requested several thousands more Pfizer vaccines from the state. She hopes the clinic’s efficiencies will help them be considered for a higher volume of doses moving forward.

The hotline to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination at Saint Francis will open again when the hospital receives another shipment of vaccines. Eligible individuals should check www.sfmc.net/covid19 and the Saint Francis Facebook page for updates.

Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center

The public health center held vaccination clinics last week at Century Casino in Cape Girardeau. The center was able to vaccinate around 450 people on Tuesday, Jan. 19, around 700 people on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and around 900 people on Friday, Jan. 22.

Jennifer Volkerding-Trinka, the assistant director of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, said they have been able to ramp up their Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations due to having additional volunteers and having the space provided by partners such as the casino and the Show Me Center.

“Moving forward, we will continue to reach out to those we have already vaccinated via their e-mail in order to get them their second shot,” Volkerding-Trinka said. “We are trying to include not only those who are due for their second dose, but also the first time doses.”

The public health center has created a wait list at www.surveymonkey.com/r/covid-waitlist. Those who fill out the survey will be placed in a queue and will receive an e-mail telling them of upcoming clinics as they open up. Once receiving an e-mail, people can schedule their vaccination. Around 9,500 people have filled out the survey.

The public health center is hosting vaccine clinics Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week throughout the county. Public Health Center Health Educator Maria Davis said there has been many individuals that do not fall in phase 1A or the first two tiers of phase 1B who have scheduled appointments this week.

Those who do not fall in those phases are asked to cancel their appointments to make room for those who need it most. The center will also be canceling appointments for those that do not meet the criteria.

Volkerding-Trinka urges everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as their tier opens up. “This vaccination is the number one thing we have going right now to help protect people, especially our elderly and those with high-risk-compromised conditions,” Volkerding-Trinka said.

Broadway/Park Pharmacy

Broadway Pharmacy and Park Pharmacy in Cape Girardeau hosted COVID-19 vaccination clinics on Monday, Jan. 18, and Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the 4-H building in Arena Park.

Lee Schlitt, an owner of both Broadway Pharmacy and Park Pharmacy, said they were able to provide 1,200 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the two days.

“We’ve done about 3,000 vaccines for nursing home residents over the last month, and so when the state opened it up to the next phases, we were able to start hosting clinics,” Schlitt said.

Schlitt said most of those vaccinated were 65 years old or older, though they also had paramedics, firefighters and medical professionals eligible from earlier tiers at the clinics.

Broadway Pharmacy has a wait list on its website at www.broadwayrx.health/-covid-19-signup for upcoming clinics. Schlitt said they have already requested more vaccines from the state and is hopeful to host more clinics starting next week.

Second dose vaccinations will also be provided by the pharmacies for those who received their first vaccination dose last week.

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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