By U.S. Rep. Billy Long
As the old adage goes, “it’s always the darkest before the dawn” and it’s been very dark on the COVID-19 front recently. As we hope for light at the end of the tunnel, we can only pray that the light is not a train coming the other way. The federal effort lead by the Trump Administration known as ‘Operation Warp Speed’ yielded several highly effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Vaccines from multiple companies are being distributed to all 50 states and each state government has formulated its own plan on distributing these vaccines to their residents.
In Missouri, Governor Parson and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are leading the effort to get the vaccine into people’s arms. Missouri has just concluded Phase 1A of its vaccine distribution effort, which focused on frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility staff and residents. During this phase, over 200,000 Missourians received a COVID-19 vaccination.
Missouri is beginning Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout, which consists of three tiers. During the start of Phase 1B, the state is focusing on Tier 1, which includes individuals working in emergency services, in non-patient facing healthcare positions, and emergency management. Tier 2 includes individuals who are considered high-risk. This includes any individual over the age of 65, women who are pregnant, adults with cancer, and individuals with pre-existing conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease or Type 2 Diabetes. Tiers 1 and 2 are now active, which means individuals who fall within either tier now qualify for vaccination.
The third and final tier of Phase 1B will see individuals working in critical infrastructure receive this vaccine. This includes individuals working in education, telecommunications, government, information technology, transportation, and more.
Once Phase 1 concludes, Missouri will move on to a broader Phase 2. During Phase 2, individuals working in a wide array of industries including the financial services sector, manufacturing, agriculture, higher education, and more will be next to receive the vaccine. Phase 2 will also focus on communities that have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.
The plan that Governor Parson and his team have created prioritizes those who are most at risk and critical infrastructure sectors that are essential to everyday life. I applaud the Governor and his team for creating a straightforward and transparent plan that will get the vaccine to those who need it most.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has been completely transparent about their efforts to distribute the vaccine. They encourage individuals who qualify in Phase 1A and Phase 1B -Tier 1 to work through their employers to access the vaccine. Individuals who qualify under Phase 1B – Tier 2 should contact their local pharmacies or health care providers for access to a vaccine.
There are several resources where you can learn more about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in your area. Information on the various phases and tiers of vaccine distribution as well as general information about the COVID-19 vaccines can be found at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/. If you believe that you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the current phase, you can find a map of all vaccine providers in the state at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/map/.
It is critical that Missouri continues to move forward with its vaccination plan and that the federal government continue to provide states with the support they need to ensure that they have the resources to put their plans into action. I will continue to work with state officials and monitor the progress of Missouri’s vaccine distribution plan closely.