October 16, 2021

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Plan for St. Louis County to oversee City’s vaccine distribution irks leaders | News Headlines

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Some leaders in St. Louis City are concerned over the possibility of St. Louis County overseeing the vaccine distribution within the city.

According to City Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols, the city has been made aware of a potential plan by the state to put the St. Louis County Health Department in charge of city vaccinations. To what extent, Dr. Echols said he did not know. Previously, several of the city’s top officials, including Mayor Lyda Krewson, have expressed concern over staffing abilities at major vaccination events. Currently, the city’s health department is depending on Affina Healthcare and CareSTL to help administer the vaccine.

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“That is a really bad idea for a host of different reasons,” said Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. “The county is going to have a challenge just managing the county’s population, so why would you also put the city’s population on top of that? I think that’s a really bad idea.”

A spokesperson for the county said last week, conversations were held at the state level about creating distribution centers around the state to help manage vaccine doses. St. Louis County’s health department was being considered as a distribution center, due to its size and availability of resources. The county, however, said no plans have been finalized and it hasn’t heard anything after the state announced on Monday the majority of the state’s doses will go to hospitals.

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The St. Louis County Health Department received 3,900 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, getting a shipment of the Pfizer version from their local hospital partners. 

During a special coronavirus committee meeting on Tuesday morning, Dr. Echols spoke with the city’s Board of Aldermen about the vaccine clinics that took place last week. More than 5,000 city residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, the vast majority receiving their vaccine during last week’s clinic. However, reports began surfacing on Saturday of young, healthy people getting invited to the clinic, while some older individuals with underlying health conditions said they did not.

“A majority of those young, healthy looking people are in healthcare,” said Dr. Echols during the meeting.

Board President Reed said the screening process needs to be stricter to prevent people from cutting the line.

“He said that, but we have no information to confirm that at this point,” said Reed. “So some of those indicators should be the key indicators to determine who should be first in line.”

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For example, Dr. Echols said following last week’s clinic, the health department altered a question about existing conditions related to obesity. Previously, the question asked if an individual’s BMI was greater than 30. Now, the condition is classified as “severe obesity” defined as a person with a BMI>40.

“Some of the indicators, it’s based on the honor system, if a person says they have 30 percent BMI, how do you know that?” said Reed. “Looking at me, would you say 30, 20, 40, 50? It’s hard to know because it depends on how much muscle they have.”

Reed said he believes most people likely guess their BMI, unaware of what it actually is. In doing so, some may be wrongly indicating they have a pre-existing condition.

“Everyone eventually is going to get a vaccine,” he said. “But we need people to be patient. By you cutting the line, you may be cutting in front of someone with a condition and making that wait a death sentence for them.”

The city said about 30,000 people have signed up online showing interest in the vaccine. Roughly 12,000 of those people are over the age of 65. Reed said a mass information campaign needs to take place, allowing residents without internet to sign up for vaccine distribution notifications.

The city expects a shipment of 975 doses this week. To pre-register for the vaccine in St. Louis City, click here.

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