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Missouri Governments Look For As Many Pipelines As Possible To Vaccinate Their First Responders

Jacob Long
City of St. Louis

Slowly but steadily, first responders across Missouri are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Gov. Mike Parson opened up eligibility for police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews earlier this month. Some larger cities, like St. Louis, are vaccinating their employees themselves, with staffing help from private companies.

St. Louis received its first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday and held vaccination clinics for its police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews Thursday and Friday, with another set for Saturday. Dr. Fred Echols, the city's health director, said he expected to use up the entire allotment.

“As individuals actually go through the vaccination experience, they’re finding that we’re able to dispel a lot of the myths that are circulating in the community,” Echols said.

The city is not holding any supply in reserve for second shots, but Echols is confident the city will be able to get enough vaccine for those doses.

Health officials had been able to give about 440 officers their first doses last week, using leftover vaccines from other health care providers.

In St. Louis County, the health department partnered with SSM Health to get vaccines to smaller police and fire departments. The agreement allows the county’s staff to focus on others who are also eligible for the vaccine.

“Keeping our first responder infrastructure healthy is a great step in protecting those many citizens that they come in contact with daily,” said Michele Ryan, director of the St. Louis County Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management.

The clinic is scheduled for Monday at St. Louis University Hospital, and more than 650 first responders had already signed up for appointments. The health department vaccinated about 330 first responders at a previous weekend clinic.

In St. Charles County, the ambulance district reached an agreement with the county health department to vaccinate employees of the 11 fire districts that serve the region. District Deputy Medical Officer John Romeo called it a logical continuation of cooperation with health officials that started even before the pandemic.

“We always planned to partner with them if they needed help,” he said. “That collaboration was strong from the minute preparations began being made for the pandemic, and it’s continued throughout.”

Romeo said the ambulance district is running into the same supply problems as others, but said he believed everyone was doing their best to get as many people vaccinated as possible. More than 400 firefighters had gotten their first dose by Friday.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.