By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
All Missouri adults are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Phase 3 of Missouri's vaccination rollout plan opened Friday, and local health officials are hopeful that this will help boost Buchanan County's, so far, low vaccination rate.
As of Thursday, over 22,700 doses of vaccine had been administered in Buchanan County, with over 9,200 residents having received both doses.
Buchanan County's vaccination rate, the amount of people who have initiated vaccination, stands at 15.9 percent - still well behind the state's rate of 28.9 percent.
St. Joseph Health Department director Debra Bradley hopes that the expanded vaccine eligibility will help eliminate confusion and hesitancy for those who haven't yet signed up for the vaccine.
"Now that it's opening up, we're hoping that people will get registered and get the vaccine," Bradley said, "and hopefully they won't have that confusion anymore."
Bradley added that there's been hesitancy among healthy residents to sign up out of fear that they'd be "jumping the line" ahead of someone more vulnerable and more in need of the vaccination.
She says anyone interested in and eligible for the vaccine should get one as soon as they can.
"There's plenty of vaccine for everyone," Bradley reiterated. "If you are eligible and interested, please go get the vaccine."
Bradley encourages anyone who has questions about the vaccine to reach out to their medical provider, or friends and family members who've had the shot in order to gather more information about it.
"Get your questions answered so you can get the vaccine," Bradley said, "and protect yourself, your family members and those who cannot get the vaccine."
The vaccine is safe for nearly all adults, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding and have underlying health conditions.
However, anyone who's had an allergic reaction to the first dose should not get a second one. In addition, anyone who has autoimmune or other conditions are encouraged to check with their doctors before getting the shot.
Bradley also mentioned that those who are 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, but encourages teens to call ahead to see if they are of age to receive the correct shot. Anyone between the age of 16-18 will also need to be accompanied by a guardian while getting vaccinated.
Many Buchanan County residents will be getting their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine Friday at St. Joseph's Community Vaccine Clinic at the East Hills Shopping Center inside the old Gordman's.
Over 1,100 doses will be administered to people who got their first dose on March 19. The vaccination clinic will take place from 12-4 p.m.
This comes as Mosaic Life Care considers shutting down the vaccine clinic at East Hills on April 16. Bradley clarified that it would only close for first-dose appointments, and would stay open longer, should demand for first-dose appointments pick back up.
"They will stay open long enough to get everyone fully vaccinated," she said. "The second-dose clinic would end some time later in May."
Bradley said that the vaccination effort in Buchanan County won't end if and when Mosaic closes its East Hills clinic. She says local pharmacies and smaller-scale clinics will help people get vaccinated if they haven't already.
"They're not going to shut the clinic down just to shut it down," she clarified. "We may be doing some more vaccinating, so there's a lot of different opportunities we have out there.
"It's just that the (East Hills) clinic, because it is a large space, takes a large amount of man power to operate. It may not be needed if we're just having a few people coming in every day. We could do it in a smaller clinic setting. So, we're looking at all of the options to see what makes sense."
Like all health officials, Bradley and her staff are closely monitoring the spread of the COVID-19 variant known as B.1.1.7., or the UK variant.
The first case of a South African variant was found in Missouri this week.
No cases of the variants have been confirmed in Buchanan County as of now, but Bradley stresses it's important to get vaccinated in order to protect yourself, and others, from these new strains.
"The variants tend to increase the number of cases," Bradley said, noting that the new variants tend to be more contagious. "Fortunately, our cases have been low these last few weeks, and that's how we want to keep it."
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.