PIKE COUNTY, Mo. — All Missouri K-12 public and private school workers will be eligible to get vaccinated beginning March 15. Nonprofit preK-12 staff, state licensed childcare center workers, some food production employees, as well as grocery and convenience stores workers will also become eligible at the same time.
During a webinar hosted Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the next phase of the state’s coronavirus vaccination plan was discussed. Robert Knodell, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, says the federal government plans to encourage its retail pharmacy vaccination program participants to prioritize teachers.
“There may be an increase in supply headed to those pharmacies that are participating in that program with the intent of giving teachers that opportunity,” he says. “So, that is going to be a new wrinkle to this process. I do believe additional supply will be made available.”
President Joe Biden is challenging all 50 states to get teachers, school staff, and childcare workers their first shot by the end of this month.
In Missouri, participating retail pharmacies include Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Hy-Vee, Sam’s Club, and Health Mart.
Knodell says the state’s vaccine supply has increased from about 76,000 COVID-19 doses weekly in February to roughly 200,000 doses this week.
Adam Crumbliss, director of the Missouri Division of Community and Public Health, says there are guidelines for teachers working or living in another state.
“If they work in Missouri but reside in Oklahoma, for example, if you are doing a mass vaccination event for the entire workforce in your area, they can be participants in that event. But if you are asking them to essentially handle the vaccination on their own, they will need to do that in Oklahoma,” he says.
Crumbliss says he wants the education community to keep the following in mind.
“This is not a light switch that suddenly overnight vaccine is going to be available in principal fashion and every teacher in Missouri suddenly on March 15 is going to be vaccinated. We know that we want all staff in education – from the administration, to the teachers, to the everybody that interacts to the students, to the custodial staff – we want all of those individuals vaccinated but we need to make sure we are also planning and leaving some space for local public health agencies to hit those that have a substantially higher mortality risk. Those two groups currently right now are going to be those over 65 or those in minority populations,” says Crumbliss.
State Health and Senior Services Department Director Randall Williams was asked why the state is moving to the next phase on March 15 when people have not been vaccinated in some of the phases already activated.
“We’ve never been in a situation where we were like, ‘Well, we’ve got 10 nurses in Sedalia that need to be vaccinated. So, we need to wait on them before we can move into Phase 1B.’ It has always been meant to be more like a hill and not a cliff,” says Dr. Williams.
DESE is evaluating plans to provide COVID-19 tests through 2022.