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FEMA To Give 168,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses At Eight-Week St. Louis Event

Earl Coleman receives his COVID-19 vaccine from MU Health Care staff nurse Paige Spry, RN, during MU Health Care’s vaccination clinic in the Walsworth Family Columns Club at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.
File photo / Justin Kelley
MU Health Care
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose at a large-scale vaccination event at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, in February. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced it will hold daily mass vaccinations at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis starting next month.

St. Louis officials expect to distribute 168,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to people at a newly announced daily downtown vaccination site starting next month.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will operate a large-scale vaccination site at the Dome at America’s Center starting April 7. Workers from FEMA, the Department of Defense and state and local health agencies will vaccinate up to 3,000 people each day for eight weeks.

FEMA is operating more than a dozen such mass vaccination events throughout the United States. The agency examines a city’s racial makeup, density and poverty rates to determine where to place each site.

“The good news there will be a lot of availability, and it will be seven days a week, 56 days in a row, of up to 3,000 shots a day,” St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said. “We think that’s going to be able to reach almost everybody in the city of St. Louis that wants a vaccination.”

Nearly 60,000 of the city’s 240,000 adult residents have received a vaccination already, she said. The site will open two days before all adult Missouri residents will become eligible to receive the shot.

The doses of the vaccine used at the FEMA site will not be taken out of the state’s weekly federal allotment, and hospitals, clinics and other mass vaccination events will continue to vaccinate people throughout the region.

The site will use both two- and one-dose vaccines depending on what is available, Krewson said. For the first few weeks, it will focus entirely on giving vaccines to St. Louis residents.

The news that FEMA will distribute the vaccine comes as a relief to residents and lawmakers who have been pushing the state government to send more doses to urban areas.

“After weeks of inaction at the state level to address vaccine deserts in St. Louis that were leaving predominantly Black and brown communities without access to the COVID-19 vaccine, I am grateful our work on the American Rescue Plan will bring 168,000 additional vaccine doses to the City of St. Louis,” U.S. Rep. Cori Bush said of the recently passed national stimulus package that gave $50 billion to FEMA relief.

FEMA representatives say the site coming to St. Louis is not a reflection of how effective the state’s efforts have been.

“The comment that we’re here because anyone is making any errors, I would strongly disagree with,” said Duwayne Tewes, a FEMA administrator who is coordinating the vaccination event downtown. “We’re here because the ability to be a force multiplier for the great job the state is already doing.”

Tewes hopes the daily events will make the vaccine more accessible to people without cars or who have inflexible work schedules. The Dome at America’s Center is close to bus and Metro stations and will be open on weekends.

Federal workers will make up the bulk of the staff at the site, which Tewes hopes will take some of the stress off local providers.

“We know that it’s a big lift to even do a site like this for a couple days,” he said. “And that’s why we come in with the resources and the staffing we can to take some of the burden off our local partners.”

The city is sharing vaccination sign-up information with the state, Krewson said. If city residents haven’t yet signed up to receive vaccination updates from the city’s health department, they should sign up with the state to receive updates for when vaccination appointment slots are available, she said.

People without internet access should call 877-435-8411 to register.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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