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As Coronavirus Vaccine Supply Increases, So Does Need For Volunteers To Deliver It

Pharmacy Tech Madison Wilmes fills syringes with the coronavirus vaccine at Christian Hospital in St. Louis on March 4, 2021.
File photo / Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
As more coronavirus vaccine becomes available in Missouri, health departments will need more people who can give shots, like pharmacy tech Madison Wilmes, to help with mass vaccine clinics. Wilmes is shown at a clinic at Christian Hospital on March 4.

The increasing supply of the coronavirus vaccine could soon make it difficult for local health departments to get shots in the arms of people fast enough.

As of Feb. 1, there were about 29,000 doses of the vaccine being distributed in Missouri’s Region C, which includes St. Louis and St. Louis County. That jumped to 53,000 doses a week by March 1 and could soon reach 69,000 doses a week. And on Thursday,Gov. Mike Parson announced he would open vaccinations up to all Missourians over the age of 16 on April 9.

That’s good news for a return to normal by early July, said Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

“However, as with everything in the pandemic, a change in one thing creates challenges in another,” he said. “As we start to expand more and more vaccine, and start having more and more of these large vaccine events, then the rate-limiting step becomes people that can actually deliver the vaccine.”

Health departments in the region rely on volunteers to staff mass vaccination sites. In St. Louis, that has included nursing students from various universities and off-duty firefighters and paramedics.

“All of these folks are very good vaccinators,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson. “But we know that when you volunteer for many events, some of your volunteers end up wearing out a little bit, or they have other things to do.”

Garza asked anyone who is trained to deliver vaccines to consider volunteering.

“It’s really a fun thing to do,” he said. “I was out at the DePaul clinic a few days ago, it was the third event that I have attended, and just the atmosphere and seeing how relieved people are when they get vaccinated is just a really great experience.”

How to sign up to volunteer:

City of St. Louis: email health@stlouis-mo.gov

St. Louis County: email DPHVolunteers@stlouisco.com

St. Charles County: www.sccmo.org/MRC

St. Louis region (including Metro East): https://www.facebook.com/gatewayvolunteernetwork

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.