Get Answers to Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions
Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, joined Senators Jill Schupp and Lauren Arthur via zoom on Thursday, Feb 4th, 5:30-6:00 p.m. to answer your questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Watch the recorded event HERE.
Spring Schmidt, Acting Co-Director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, joined Senator Jill Schupp and Representative Tracy McCreery via zoom on Thursday, Feb 11th, 5:30-6:00 p.m. to answer your questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Watch the recorded event HERE.
Your Questions Answered
During the Vaccine Q&A event with Dr. Williams from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), time ran out before all your proposed questions were answered. Below are the written answers DHSS sent to your remaining questions. Answers provided as of 2/17/21.
Q1: We have heard that people from out-of-state are registering for vaccine appointments and receiving them in Missouri. Is the state allowing people from out-of-state to receive the vaccine here? If not, is it up to local vaccinators to prevent this from occurring?
DHSS Answer: Please see recent Governor’s press release regarding residency here: https://governor.mo.gov/press-releases/archive/state-releases-guidance-covid-19-vaccinators-regarding-patient-residency
Q2: We have heard from patient-facing healthcare workers not affiliated with a hospital who are still waiting on a vaccine. Why did the state decide to move onto the next phase when there are still health care workers without access?
DHSS Answer: The state prioritized those with the highest risk. This includes those in Phase 1A, 1B Tier 1 and Tier 2.
Q3: Why aren’t individuals with Type 1 diabetes considered high-risk when those with Type 2 are considered high-risk?
DHSS Answer: There is no doubt that Type I and Type II Diabetes can yield immunosuppressive impacts. At the time the criteria were evaluated and solidified, data indicated a marked difference of the impacts of COVID-19 with substantially increased acute effects on those with Type II Diabetes in comparison to those with Type I Diabetes. It is exactly these types of evolving clinical results that catalyzed a specific inclusion of deference to clinical judgement within the Standing Order. For those patients with immunosuppressive disorders not explicitly outlined in the prioritization within the standing order, they are authorized to seek clinical guidance by talking with their physician. Should the physician agree that their particular clinical circumstances warrant inclusion in a higher tier, the doctor can authorize this to occur and make a note in the patient chart.
Q4: Is there an expected timeline for when the state will move into the phase of the vaccine plan that would allow for everyone who wants the vaccine to get vaccinated?
DHSS Answer: Due to the current supply, there is not a set timeframe to move into later phases of the vaccine plan. It remains our goal that vaccines will be available to every Missourian as supplies increase.
Q5: I read that the Governor is pulling the left-over vaccines from CVS and Walgreens. Why not just allow the pharmacies to begin vaccinating? Doesn’t moving the vaccine run the risk of a refrigeration failure and loss of vaccine?
DHSS Answer: We continue to work with CVS and Walgreens to take back additional supply and redistribute to other eligible vaccinators across the state.
Q6: In terms of efficacy, can you compare the currently approved vaccines to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine waiting to get approved? Should an individual get more than one brand of vaccine (such as Pfizer and also Moderna)? Can a person choose their preferred vaccine when they sign up for an appointment? I am worried the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be less effective.
DHSS Answer: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not received FDA approval as of yet. Both Pfizer and Moderna specific information can be found on our COVID vaccinator website here: https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/vaccinators/
Q7: With the strong need to reopen our schools and also get our economy going, will teachers and school personnel be prioritized?
DHSS Answer: The state prioritized those with the highest risk, those who fall into Phase 1A, Phase 1B Tier 1 and Tier 2 are eligible to schedule appointments now. Teachers and school personnel who are not eligible for Phase 1A and Phase 1B Tier 1 and Tier 2 are included in phase 1B Tier 3.
Q8: Will vaccines be distributed to family practice offices or is the state primarily sending supply to hospitals and health departments?
DHSS Answer: The vaccine will be available to those who enrolled to be a COVID vaccinator. If a family practice office enrolled to be a vaccinator they will be eligible to request an order of the vaccine.
Q9: How are all of the vaccines being used when there are no-show appointments?
DHSS Answer: Most Hospitals, Local Health Departments and other vaccination sites have lists of individuals eligible to receive the vaccine. If there is a “no-show” they have a list of individuals that they can contact. More details on vaccine site plans should be directed toward the specific site.
Q10: We’ve heard from retired and active professionals…pharmacists and dentists…who want to volunteer their services. Is there a place where they can get trained and volunteer?
DHSS Answer: Volunteers can register at Show Me Response here: Volunteer | Emergency Preparedness & Response | Health & Senior Services (mo.gov)
Q11: Tell us about your communication and coordination with the Federal government and our local governments. How far in advance do you know about supply, and when are local vaccinators informed of what supply they’ll get from the state?
DHSS Answer: We are currently notified by the federal government one week in advance of the shipment amounts we will receive from the federal government. Vaccinators are notified the weekend prior of any order requests that will be fulfilled.
Q12: Is the vaccine the only way to stop the virus? Can wearing a mask and social distancing have the same result?
DHSS Answer: The vaccine is one more tool in the fight against COVID-19.
Q13: Once a person is vaccinated, should that person still wear a mask and social distance?
DHSS Answer: Yes, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19 even though you’ve been vaccinated.
Q14: If you’ve already had COVID, do you need the vaccine?
DHSS Answer: The CDC recommends that you should receive the vaccine even if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. Please see CDC’s FAQs regarding the COVID-19 vaccine here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html
Q15: Do our COVID tests check for variants? (If not, how do we know if we have variants here?)
DHSS Answer: Health care providers who offer COVID-19 testing are able to request a sample be tested for the variant if the provider has cause to believe the patient may have been exposed to the variant.
Q16: Regarding the COVID vaccine and its effectiveness against mutations of the virus (such as those in South Africa and Great Britain)– what is the vaccine’s effectiveness against these variants?
DHSS Answer: Studies are currently being conducted.
Q17: How do we get information about the “mass” vaccination sites? Will the locations of the sites change, how do I sign up, and can I go to a mass vaccination site outside my county?
DHSS Answer: Mass vaccination events are updated on our COVID-19 events webpage here: https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/events/. Individuals are encouraged to register with the COVID-19 vaccine Navigator here: https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator/.
Q18: Is it possible for the vaccine to come to schools so teachers can get vaccinated?
DHSS Answer: Employers across the state have been asked to partner with vaccinators in order to better coordinate vaccinations for their employees.
Q19: Is there someplace that we can go to find out the current supply of vaccines at the various outlets?
DHSS Answer: Information on those approved to be an eligible vaccinator can be found on our vaccinator map here: https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/map/. Due to limited supply, the vaccine may not be available at each location on the map.
Q20: Can timelines be posted on when and where vaccines will be available in our vicinity?
DHSS Answer: At this time, due to limited supply, we continue to urge eligible individuals to work with vaccinators in their area, sign up on the States Vaccine Navigator to register to receive event information.
Q21: Given reports that many nursing home staff members are refusing the vaccine, will Missouri be adding a section to its dashboard providing the public with information on the vaccination rates among healthcare providers and workers?
DHSS Answer: I am unaware of any discussions to include uptake rates amongst certain professions.
Q22: Who is involved in training those professionals who are administering the vaccines?
DHSS Answer: Training for professionals that are currently administering the vaccine would be covered under their medical coursework needed to obtain their professional certification or licensing. We are asking all individuals who are administering the COVID vaccine to take the course from CDC here is the link that we are sharing: https://www2.cdc.gov/vaccines/ed/covid19/index.asp. The trainings do offer certificates. These are being updated to meet the new PREP Act guidelines. Additionally, all providers who are vaccine coordinators are required to have the CDC You Call the Shots vaccine Storage and handling module: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ed/youcalltheshots.html. We require the upload of the storage and handling certificate, the other certificates we recommend that the site keep for proof of training.
Q23: Are schools required to implement a vaccine policy making the COVID vaccine mandatory for all teachers, other staff, students or any one of these? Are schools and healthcare facilities required or is it recommended for them to have a policy for all volunteers to get the COVID vaccine before being allowed to return to the facility?
DHSS Answer: There is no state requirement for individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q24: Can you explain the difference between a “highly recommended” vaccine policy and “mandatory” vaccine policies? For example, the mandatory vaccines for school children in Pre-K through 12, for polio and MMR are “mandatory” and some vaccine policies suggest using “highly recommended”. Please explain why children in Pre- K through12, who are 16 years of age or younger, can’t be included in a mandatory vaccine policy.
DHSS Answer: If this question is in regards to a mandatory vaccine policy for children 16 and younger to be required to receive the COVID vaccine, then the answer would be that the currently approved vaccines have not been FDA approved for use in children of these age groups.
Q25: If a school or healthcare facility has a vaccine policy, is it consistent with healthcare recommendations/evidence-based clinical guidelines or best practices to only require those who refuse to get the COVID vaccine to wear a mask?
DHSS Answer: The continuation of public health mitigation strategies are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 even for those that have been vaccinated. While we would like to return to times without enhanced focus on social distancing, masking where appropriate, and other strategies, we are not yet at that point. While the CDC has begun to review alternative quarantine guidance for those that have been fully vaccinated, those alternatives do not underestimate the ongoing importance of masking to not only protect the wearer, but to protect the people surrounding them as well.
Q26: Is a vaccine policy approved by the Board or governing body required before a vaccine clinic can be held at a school or healthcare facility or municipality site?
DHSS Answer: Enrolled vaccinators and employers can partner together to host a vaccination event.
Q27: I’m in an eligible tier to receive the vaccine and have multiple health conditions. Will I be prioritized over others in the same tier as me without health conditions? How is it being determined who in the eligible group gets an appointment?
DHSS Answer: All individuals who are eligible within Phase 1A, Phase 1B Tier 1 and Tier 2 are eligible to sign up for an appointment to receive the vaccine.