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Jackson County scrambles after state shift in vaccine policy

By Jeff Fox jeff.fox@examiner.net

The Jackson County Health Department for a third straight week has gotten no COVID-19 vaccine from the state of Missouri, reflecting a shift in state policy.

“We don't think there's going to be a large number of vaccines coming to the county Health Department going forward,” County Administrator Troy Schulte told county legislators Monday.

He stressed that the county Health Department is holding on to the vaccines needed for the second shot for those people who have had their first shot.

The state gets allocations of vaccines from the federal government. It is then funneling the biggest portion of those to hospitals, including Truman Medical Centers in Jackson County. Twenty percent is going for the mass vaccination events that the National Guard is conducting at rural sites across the state. Some are going to Walmart and large drugstore chains. Local health departments are getting 8 percent.

That pivot in policy poses challenges for the county, which weeks ago set up an online list on which people can get notified when they can get a shot. About 131,000 people – roughly one in six Jackson County residents – have signed up for that.

Schulte said the county will have to shift people over to Truman Medical Centers or perhaps a health-care provider such as HCA so no one on the list is left dangling.

He had a couple of suggestions for people.

One is to call TMC at 404-CARE.

“That would probably be the quickest way to get vaccinated because the vaccines are just not coming to the health departments,” he said.

Or call your doctor.

“I would reach out through your medical professional, not necessarily worry about Jackson County,” Schulte said.

County officials also said the state's distribution of vaccines raises questions about communities of color continuing to be underserved.

“It appears that the priorities of the state are the rural areas,” said Legislator Ronald Finley, D-Kansas City.

Caleb Clifford, chief of staff to County Executive Frank White Jr., echoed that.

“We are very concerned with the current plan, how it is playing out in Jackson County,” he said.