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Federal directive fast tracks Missouri teachers and caregivers for COVID-19 vaccines

Under a new federal channel, Missouri teachers and caregivers can get a COVID-19 vaccine shot at participating pharmacies next week.

Posted: Mar 6, 2021 11:08 AM
Updated: Mar 6, 2021 2:42 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri teachers and caregivers now have two options for getting immunized against COVID-19.

Last week, Gov. Mike Parson announced Missouri’s critical infrastructure workers -- teachers, caregivers, grocery store workers, and individuals in the agriculture sector -- would be eligible for a COVID-19 shot starting March 15.

Since then, the St. Joseph School District has been finalizing plans to get its workforce lined up for vaccines.

“We’ve got a list of folks who want to get immunized when the time comes on the 15th and that’s kind of what we are leaning towards at the Gordman’s site getting in and getting immunized,” said Maria Burnham, the St. Joseph School District Coordinator of Nursing Services.

Burnham said the district has about 430 district employees interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine who haven’t already qualified under the state’s vaccination plan because of age, health condition, or other criteria.

But this week was a bit of a curveball for a significant portion of the soon-to-be-eligible Phase 1B Tier 2 Missourians. President Joe Biden announced teachers and caregivers would be fast-tracked for vaccine shots regardless of a state’s priority plan.

"We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March," Biden said.

Prior to the federal directive, 34 states had already begun administering teachers and caregivers vaccine shots. Missouri was one of the remaining 16 that had not. Although, the plans were in motion to get the group in line in mid-March.

Through the CDC-managed program, teachers and caregivers could qualify immediately, sign up for a vaccine with one of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program partners and begin vaccinations the week of March 8. In Missouri, those federal partners are CVS, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and HyVee. The participating pharmacies in the federal program will be allocated and directly shipped vaccines from the federal supply.

The director of Missouri’s health department, Dr. Randall Williams, expressed frustration about the federal directive and the confusion that it has caused.

“We had a conversation with the CDC and the White House a few weeks ago in which we had hoped that the prioritization of states would be kind of respect because you can imagine it creates a little bit of confusion but be what it may, they decided not to do that for the first time. That’s the first time that that’s happened,” Williams said Thursday during the state’s weekly COVID-19 briefing in Jefferson City.

While the federal order was a bit confusing, Burnham said she believes the quicker and more versatile options are for teachers and school staff to get a vaccine, the better.

“Now that we’ve had the information come out from President Biden about working through pharmacies, beginning on Monday the 8th, if people want to go that route, that is totally fine also, you know? Just get when and where you can,” she said.

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