The state of Missouri is organizing its third mega vaccination event. Up to 10,000 total doses of coronavirus vaccine could be given Thursday and Friday at the Hammons Student Center on the Missouri State University campus.
Dr. Russell Kohl is a colonel in the Missouri National Guard and is also a family physician who is helping to organize the event. He encourages Missourians to get vaccinated during this pivotal time.
“We know that vaccine is effective for the B.1.1.7 variant that has been identified in the area,” he tells Missourinet. “We know that we are just far enough after spring break that if some folks didn’t pay attention to what they were supposed to be doing at spring break that we are about at the point where we would start to see an outbreak.”
Beginning Friday, all Missouri adults are eligible to get vaccinated statewide. The mega event is open to all eligible Missourians.
“Just in the past week, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department has announced the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 there in Greene County. This is the variant that effects younger folks more and is easier to spread. It’s a great opportunity for the folks, particularly the college students and some of the younger folks who have not been eligible before, to be able to get that one and done Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” says Kohl.
According to the Sean Barnhill with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, about 4,000 people have registered for the mega event so far.
Col. Kohl says registrants should plan to be there for about an hour. It is a walk thru event.
For Missourians who aren’t crazy about needles, Kohl says the worst part of anxiety is waiting for something to happen.
“Given the numbers of vaccines that we are trying to do, it is not uncommon at these sorts of events for us to be doing 125-150 shots every 15 minutes. Once you get to being near a vaccinator, there’s no time to worry anymore,” he says. “The shot is done.”
State-organized mass vaccination events have been going on since January. The state of Missouri has completed about 2.8 million total doses so far.
“The Missouri National Guard-supported events, so far in the state of Missouri, have administered over 250,000 doses. The National Guard-supported events, which really are a huge team effort of the National Guard supporting those local folks, we are still running about 10-12% of the overall vaccines in Missouri,” says Kohl.
According to Kohl, an event of Thursday’s and Friday’s size takes about 100 National Guard soldiers. Americorps volunteers, local public health department employees, and others are also helping.
“When we first started, really, the mass vaccination teams out in the different regions in late January, at that point those National Guard events were giving between 20-30% of the total doses in the state. We’ve been able to keep increasing the number of doses that we give, but as I just mentioned we are now down to 10-12%. So, that’s actually a great thing for the state of Missouri and kind of reflects how many more doses are coming into the state. Your local health departments, your doctor’s offices, your pharmacies – there’s a whole lot of people on the team trying to get shots in arms at this point.”
He says the plan is to use the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for other mega events.
“From a public health perspective, when we are trying to get a large amount of the population vaccinated, being able to use that one and done vaccine is a really effective tool to help that,” says Kohl. “If we get 10,000 people to come out to Missouri State on Thursday and Friday, and a month from now we do it again, if we gave Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine, then at the end of that we would have 10,000 vaccinated Missourians, which is great. However, if we are able to use J&J for that event, with the exact same amount of work, a month from now we’ve got 20,000 Missourians vaccinated. This is all about a numbers game of being able to get as many shots in arms of Missourians and getting them immune as soon as possible.”
As far as no-shows go at the mass and mega events statewide, Col. Kohl says the workers have backup plans to use leftover vaccine and avoid waste. He says the no show rate can run in the 10-15% range overall.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Spokeswoman Lisa Cox tells Missourinet whether booster shots will be needed around the fall to help prevent infection is not clear yet. She says manufacturers are preparing the vaccines just in case. Therefore, it is still too early to tell if the state will be organizing future mass vaccination events for booster shots.
To register for the Springfield event or another one, go to mostopscovid.com.
The full interview is below.
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