Missouri Gov. Mike Parson blasted the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force at his weekly press briefing Thursday, saying Dr. Alex Garza is “cherry-picking” vaccine distribution data solely to spread “fear and panic.”
Garza said earlier this week that the region is receiving less than half of the vaccine allotment it should be, based on population.
Parson, who mispronounced Garza’s name throughout his briefing, said the area is receiving its fair share of the state’s vaccines, which is 37%, and has been since distribution began.
“Dr. Garzi (sic) has made statements that have been absolutely false,” Parson said. “He has led with fear and panic rather than a sense of balance.”
At the task force’s briefing on Monday, Garza pointed out that the state had received more than 93,000 doses of the vaccine, and that the state’s most populous region, which has roughly 2.2 million people, received 15,600 doses. It should be getting roughly 34,000.
The state’s public health department held a press briefing on Wednesday and confirmed the region would be getting 33,200 doses.
When asked specifically about distribution in the St. Louis area, Adam Crumbliss, director of the public health division of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said it’s an ever-changing process.
“Right now you may see that some of our communities are on the low end of the data, but they’ve been high in previous weeks and then vice versa,” Crumbliss said. “Our objective is to make sure that we’re really aimed at proportionally distributing those vaccines, but it is an ebb and flow that on a weekly basis will continue to move up and down.”
In a statement Thursday, the task force did not respond specifically to Parson’s accusations. Instead members said they were confident in their vaccine estimates and wanted to focus on equitable distribution.
“We will continue to work with the State of Missouri and our regional partners as we have throughout the pandemic, to care for our community and increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” the statement read.
Much of the good news at the governor’s briefing was overshadowed by his remarks about Garza, but Missouri’s coronavirus positivity rate is under 10% for the first time since October.
“Since the very beginning, we have taken a balanced approach, and our data shows we are doing the right thing,” Parson said.
According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, the positivity rate is 7.6%.
Parson said in November that the state had roughly 2,800 hospitalizations for the virus, and that there currently are about 1,400.