Missouri’s governor announced Thursday in Jefferson City that there have been issues with the COVID vaccine distribution process, and warns that there will be consequences for vaccinators that allow people to jump the line.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams briefs Capitol reporters on February 4, 2021, as Governor Parson listens (photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

Governor Mike Parson briefed Capitol reporters during a Statehouse press conference, emphasizing that his administration will vaccinate the most vulnerable and those 65 and older first.

“This is part of the process that we’re going to put in place to be able to help that group that is in that tier and we’re going to maintain that. If that is not followed, then we will do other actions,” Parson says.

State Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams says future distribution of the vaccine is based on following the rules. During the press conference, Dr. Williams talked about one recent example of a vaccinator not following proper guidelines.

“It came to my attention, a pharmacist in an area called us and said look, I just know that they’re giving it to a group that’s not and so I called them,” says Dr. Williams. “I called the CEO of that institution and I said true or not true and he said true. And I said why, and he kind of went and he said I’m just going to tell you, we did it.”

Dr. Williams is not releasing the vaccinator’s name.

Governor Parson also criticized House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, for recently getting a COVID shot in Jefferson City, saying she cut in line.

Leader Quade told the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” after that event that she had asked the personnel administering the vaccine questions about the process.

“We hadn’t heard anything, of course, other than just word of mouth and then when we went there they were of course like- yes, everyone. Later to find out that wasn’t for us. And that’s, you know, a frustrating thing,” Quade told the newspaper.

The governor outlined some positive numbers, during the briefing. He says the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is now 9.3 percent, 15 points lower than November. He describes this development as extremely encouraging.

He also says about 600,000 COVID doses have been administered to Missourians. Governor Parson says supply continues to be the limiting factor. Governor Parson says the state is committed to giving every Missourian the opportunity to eventually receive a vaccine regardless of where they live.

Mass vaccination events were conducted Thursday in three rural Missouri communities: northwest Missouri’s Chillicothe, southern Missouri’s Rolla and southeast Missouri’s Farmington. All three areas have large elderly populations. 975 doses were administered in Chillicothe, where the Missouri National Guard and health employees worked in sleet.

Governor Parson also says more than 315,000 cases of personal protective equipment (PPE) have now been shipped to Missouri health care providers, including 24 million gowns and 20 million gloves.

During the press conference, the governor was also asked about the unemployment overpayment controversy. Parson reiterates that residents who received unemployment overpayments should have to repay the money, with a payment plan.

“I don’t think if there’s a mistake made on both sides there ought to be some mutual understanding of how we make up that difference,” Parson says. “So if that means somebody paying something off over a five-year period of time or whatever the timeslots are, if they know they’ve got it and can then they should.”

The governor’s position is at odds with members of the bipartisan Missouri House Special Committee on Government Oversight, which has criticized the state Department of Labor’s position.

State Labor director Anna Hui testified this week that the state overpaid more than $150 million in unemployment benefits in 2020. About 46,000 Missourians have been impacted, and the oversight committee learned this week that a Kansas City woman is being told she must repay $23,000.

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