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Missouri’s health director worries public health distrust could remain after pandemic

Governor's Office
Don Kauerauf, shown during a news conference in July, says he still believes a portion of Missourians who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 are approachable and could be persuaded to get the shot.

On this episode of Politically Speaking, Don Kauerauf, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, talks with St. Louis Public Radio’s Sarah Kellogg and Sarah Fentem about the coronavirus pandemic, as well as other public health topics.

Kauerauf began work in September, after being chosen for the job by Gov. Mike Parson in July. He succeeded Robert Knodell, who served on an interim basis after the resignation of Randall Williams.

Here’s what Kauerauf spoke about on the show:

  • Missouri’s current COVID-19 vaccination rate and how the state plans to reach out to Missourians who have yet to get the shot. 
  • Whether COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy could lead to apprehension for other known or future vaccinations.  
  • What the future of the pandemic looks like and if the approach to combating the virus will change as more people become vaccinated. He also talked about whether ending the pandemic is even possible. 
  • The politicization of public health, including the erosion of trust of health officials, along with what can be done to restore that relationship. 
  • His strategy for working with Missouri lawmakers to accomplish his goals and what he hopes to achieve beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kauerauf was the assistant health director for the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2016 to 2018.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Follow Sarah Fentem on Twitter: @petitsmudge

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.
Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.