Supply chain delay means local police, firefighters must wait longer for COVID vaccine


ST. LOUIS – The delayed rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine means police officers in the St. Louis area will wait longer before it’s their turn.

First responders, officers, firefighters, and EMS workers fall in Category 1B – the next group in line to be vaccinated in Missouri. But before that happens, the first wave of vaccinations for people in Category 1A needs to be completed. The state of Missouri is still making sure those individuals, which include frontline healthcare workers, are addressed.

Michele Ryan, director of St. Louis County’s Office of Emergency Management, has been in talks with the state about when St. Louis County police officers will be vaccinated.

“It had gotten bumped up,” she said. “We started hearing maybe early February. But they couldn’t get as many vaccines as they had thought for 1A, so they pushed it back a couple weeks.”

St. Louis County police would need enough vaccines to cover 1,300 workers, she said.
Since last March, 165 officers in the department have tested positive. All but 10 have returned to work. Ryan said she is grateful that the number isn’t larger. She said staff have been following protocols to keep themselves and the community safe. She said she’s fielded many questions from police departments about the vaccination timeline.

“Every day. Multiple times a day. They want to know when. They want to know which one we’re going to get. Because you’re hearing different things about Moderna, and Pfizer. They want to know which one. We don’t know,” she said. “This is a problem that we’ve never had before. We’ve never had to warp-speed a vaccine for a pandemic.”

The St. Louis City Department of Health has been providing Covid-19 updates about the status of city employees. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is the largest department within the city. As is the case with St. Louis County, St. Louis officers are anxiously waiting for the vaccine.

“I think it’s been really tough for all the public safety employees. The police officers, they’re engaged with community members from all walks of life,” Dr. Fredrick Echols, the Director of Health for St. Louis, said.

Echols compared the situation to the early days of the pandemic, when protective gear and supplies were in short demand.

“We have these resources, but agencies and individuals across the world are looking for the same resource. And so, we know they’re be some time delay before we can get it to all those essential workers,” he said.

In the meantime, first responders continue to follow CDC and department guidelines to ensure their safety, and those with whom they come into contact.

“They come into contact with so many people,” Ryan said.

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