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Officials Hope Soon-To-Open FEMA Site Will Fill COVID-19 'Vaccination Gap' In St. Louis

 Sailors in the U.S. Navy prepare to open the large-scale vaccination site at the Dome at America's Center on April 4, 2021.
File photo / Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
Navy personnel on Monday prepare to open the large-scale vaccination site at the Dome at America's Center. Workers will begin distributing the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Navy have arrived in downtown St. Louis to help vaccinate people against the coronavirus.

State and local officials hope the two-month immunization event at the Dome at America’s Center will help fill the city’s “vaccination gap.” Nearly 28% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, only 19% of people in St. Louis have.

The city’s density means large-scale clinics like the FEMA site are necessary, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said during a visit Monday afternoon.

“I think everyone’s doing a good job up here, you’ve just got a huge population,” Parson said. “It’s going to take naturally longer to get through there than if you go to a county that has about 30,000 people in there. You can make one stop, two stops, and you’re done.”

The site is scheduled to open Wednesday and is expected to vaccinate close to 170,000 people before the end of May. All adults in Missouri will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting this Friday.

While vaccines have been in limited supply for months, officials are beginning to prepare for a surplus in doses.

“We thought this day would come, when at some point we’d have to turn it more into a marketing campaign to try to get people to take that vaccine,” Parson said. “I think by the end of April you’re probably going to see the demand in the urban areas drop off.”

In the coming weeks, the state’s biggest job will be persuading people to get the shot, FEMA Region 7 Administrator Kathy Fields said.

“If you know people who have not gotten the vaccination, please send them to us so we can help save lives,” she said.

Health officials urge St. Louis and St. Louis County residents who want to receive a shot at the FEMA site to sign up on the state’s registration list at MoStopsCovid.com

FEMA staffers also encourage local residents tosign up to volunteerat the downtown site as ushers and helpers.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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