The St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society (SLMMS) is expressing concerns from recent studies concluding that COVID-19 vaccines are harder to obtain in the state’s more highly populated urban areas, as well as reports of vaccine going unused or wasted in clinics in outlying parts of the state.
The State has only recently acknowledged that demand is higher in the more populous parts of Missouri. This demand is driven by the fact that there has been limited vaccine allocated to the more urban areas. The recent study findings by Deloitte, a consulting firm hired by the State, concluded that metro areas have significant populations of more vulnerable residents. The same study found also that the state’s urban centers, in particular the St. Louis region, have the largest “vaccination gap” – the estimated number of eligible residents who still have not received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
SLMMS urges the State of Missouri to make equity a priority in allocating the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine across the state. While SLMMS commends the state for their recently-announced adjustments to the allocation plan, as well as realizing the need for more large-scale vaccination events in urban areas, these efforts must continue in order to rectify earlier disparities. We are optimistic that these changes, as well as increased dosage availability with a third approved vaccine being distributed will help address the immediate crisis.
We remain concerned that the St. Louis region has been under-allocated for the past several weeks, and now we are so far behind other areas that it will take longer to achieve improvements in vaccination rates and thus keep the virus in check. We ask the state of Missouri and the Department of Health and Senior Services to continue to monitor this situation closely and adjust plans accordingly.
Our concerns are for the health and benefit of our patients. In addition to geographic factors, vaccine equity must also target reaching minority communities less likely to have internet access to schedule appointments as well as often having limited schedule flexibility and limited means to travel to appointments. Eligible residents should not have to travel long distances to clinics in rural parts of the state where extra doses have been available.