(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Less than 9 percent of Buchanan County residents have received a COVID-19 shot, according to the state dashboard Tuesday.
Compared to the state, an average of 14.2 percent of Missourians who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the county is behind. Buchanan County also trails surrounding counties in the Northwest region. According to state data, nearly 17 percent of Nodaway County residents and nearly 14 percent of Clinton County residents have received at least one COVID-19 shot.
“Buchanan County has vaccinated a lot of people but they may not be Buchanan County residents,” St. Joseph Health Department Director Debra Bradley said. “People who live and work in our region come here and interact with people who live here so we want to protect them as well.”
Comparing all 115 Missouri counties, Buchanan County, with 8.9 percent, would rank 99th for percent of the population receiving at least one COVID-19 shot.
However, its vaccination rate is right in line with Missouri’s most heavily populated counties. According to the state data, Jackson County sits at 11 percent, St. Louis County at 9.4 percent, and Jefferson County comes in behind Buchanan County with 8.7 percent. All of Missouri’s 15 most populous counties, with the exception of Cape Girardeau, have a poor vaccination rate.
Bradley said the low vaccination rate is not because there is a lack of demand. Buchanan County residents and the providers are requesting vaccines but the supplies are not there.
“I know that I’ve been asking for more, Mosaic has been asking for more. Northwest Health Services is always asking for vaccines,” she said.
Officials representing Missouri’s most populated areas have complained that the state vaccine supply has not been fairly distributed, something state officials have denied.
Last week, Governor Mike Parson addressed that criticism during his weekly COVID-19 news briefing in Jefferson City.
“There is no division between rural and urban Missouri. That needs to stop,” Parson said.
According to Bradley, Parson reiterated that statement to public health officials during a phone call Tuesday morning.
“He assured us that the distribution was proportional to the population and he said the federal government is starting to ramp up their allocation which means we will get more which means hopefully means our region will also get more,” Bradley said.
Missouri’s Vaccination website does show vaccines are allocated and distributed to regions based on population. For example, Region H, the Northwest region of the state, accounts for about 4 percent of the state’s total population and has received about 5 percent of the state’s vaccine allotment from the federal government.
The issue is how it’s distributed within the regions.
Monday, a mass vaccination clinic with the National Guard in Putnam County resulted in 700 people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine shot. But more than 1500 doses went unused. Putnam County has less than 5,000 residents but the event was allocated more than 2300 vaccine doses.
The leftover vaccines were distributed to other Region B counties in Northeast Missouri but more than 140 doses were trashed.
Putnam County’s clinic is not alone. Mass state-sponsored vaccine clinics across the state have had more supplies than demand.
Last week, a mass clinic in Bollinger County has 1400 vaccines leftover.
It’s also happened in Northwest Missouri.
“We got a couple of hundred doses from one of these mass vaccination clinics shipped over to the community clinic a couple of weeks ago because they couldn’t use it,” Bradley said. “They tried as hard as they could so they said who could use it and I’m always like yeah, we’ll take it.”
Bradley emphasized that she believes Region H or county health officials have gone above and beyond to do their jobs. Many of the complaints and frustrations, she believes will be resolved in the coming weeks as supplies increase. In the meantime, she does think the state can alter its distribution plan to make distribution a bit more equitable.
“My personal wish is maybe to not use 2500 doses at these mass vaccination clinics. Maybe use 1500 and put that other 1,000 through these high throughput clinics where you have your list, you have people who are willing to come in and get it,” Bradley said.