ST. LOUIS – Details are emerging about how the St. Louis region is preparing to receive COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. This comes as a critical meeting on the Pfizer vaccine is set for Thursday involving the Food and Drug Administration.
County Executive Dr. Sam Page says that the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine should start arriving in the region by the end of this week. They will be sent to hospitals and given to the people who work there. Page says that there will not be enough vaccine to distribute to all hospital workers initially. It may take a month to get all workers vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine will also be sent first to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They have contracts with pharmacies who will be distributing the vaccine to workers and residents. St. Louis County will be monitoring their progress.
Widespread vaccine distribution in the region will take several months. The St. Louis Pandemic Task Force says that area hospitals are now at 83 percent capacity and may run out of room by the end of the year. Page is warning St. Louis County residents that the virus is still spreading in the community. He is asking people to postpone holiday travel to keep the spread of the virus under control.
St. Louis County has acquired three ultra-cold stand up freezers to hold vaccine doses, including the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at extremely cold temperatures. The freezers will hold about 76,000 doses. St. Louis County is also finalizing a deal with a local company for two additional freezers that will be loaned to the county and used as back-ups.
The City of St. Louis has also secured freezers for vaccine doses. Jacob Long, the spokesperson for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said the city has acquired between four and six super ultra-cold storage units that can hold the Pfizer vaccine. He said the city will likely keep one of the freezers then divvy up the others to its various health partners. Long said the city expects to receive its first vaccine shipment seven to ten days after a vaccine is approved.
Krewson said the St. Louis region is expected to get around 150,000 vaccine doses later this month, 50,000 from Pfizer and 100,000 from Moderna. Long said the city will follow CDC guidelines for who gets the vaccine first.