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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A project has been underway for several weeks to get the vaccine to first responders who are critical for public health and safety. Around 4,000 local first responders and emergency workers will receive the COVID-19 vaccine soon.

Around 2% of the nation’s population lives in Missouri. The supply of the COVID vaccine is low but the demand is very high. Supplies are limited to the state because of the federal distribution schedule and the ability to manufacture more medicine.

The enhanced distribution schedule is possible because of a partnership with the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force and St. Louis County. They are working with SSM Health and Saint Louis University Hospital to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is so important for our first responders because they are the fabric of our communities,” said Michelle Ryan, St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management. “The first responder world has been hit hard by COVID cases and exposures. To get something like this finally set up and the guys through the shot lines is huge.”

Spring Schmidt, co-director of the St. Louis County Health Department, says the three groups have been working on this becoming  a reality for weeks.

“Having a partner like SSM Health step up with SLU Hospital is fantastic because they can add volume,” Schmidt said.

The county health department has some vaccine but not enough for a project this big. Not only is SSM Health providing the lion’s share of vaccine, their medical personnel is administering it too.

Who exactly is getting the vaccine? The agencies invited to participate include the St. Louis County Police Department, all municipal police and fire departments in the county, and federal agencies based in the region, including the FBI and Homeland Security. The vaccinations are also open to St. Louis City officers. They already have over 650 appointments set.

“We continue building partnerships to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible, and we thank SSM Health for stepping up to help get our first responders vaccinated,” St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said in a statement. “We will have other partnerships to announce within the coming days.”

First responders are in the Phase 1B Tier 1 category. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health vaccinated some 330 of the county’s first responders last weekend. 

It’s estimated that all first responders can be vaccinated within 18 to 20 days.