Missouri’s low vaccination rate worries new health director


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The state’s new law limiting the authority of public health officials and the low vaccination rate is worrying the Missouri Health Director Don Kauerauf.

After less than three weeks into the job, Don Kauerauf says that masks work. He said there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution but believes the state health department should provide baseline guidance for schools and communities to follow.

To date, only 46.6% of Missourians are fully vaccinated. This is a percentage the director for the Department of Health and Senior Services said needs to increase.

Kauerauf took over as the director of DHSS in September after Dr. Randall Williams was asked to resign in April. He said a mandate is a political decision and instead wants Missourians to take personal responsibility.

During a media call on Thursday, he told reporters about the importance of local decisions which is why a new law in Missouri has him concerned. House Bill 271 limits local orders restricting businesses, churches, schools, or gatherings to 30 days under a statewide emergency unless approved by a majority vote of the local governing body, like a city council. If there is no emergency, then the restriction or order could only last for 21 days unless approved.

“The word mandate is a word I cannot stand. I think in the public health world when you start saying the word mandate, you’re basically acknowledging that everything else has failed. I wear a mask and I would recommend to anyone to wear a mask if you’re in those areas where there’s a chance for passing or receiving the virus,” said Kauerauf.

Kauerauf said the state health department is working to release new guidance to schools and local communities but did not elaborate on the plans.

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