Missouri sets mass vaccination event in South County for April 3 after pushback from Murphy

Members+of+the+Missouri+National+Guard+prepare+doses+of+COVID-19+vaccine+at+a+state-run+mass+vaccination+site+Feb.+23+in+Canton%2C+near+the+Iowa+border.

Photo by Deborah Baker

Members of the Missouri National Guard prepare doses of COVID-19 vaccine at a state-run mass vaccination site Feb. 23 in Canton, near the Iowa border.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. And we have more breaking news: Since this article was published, St. Louis County has now announced that it will be holding two mass vaccination sites in South County. For what we know so far about those events, click here.

The state will run the first COVID-19 mass vaccination event in South County Saturday, April 3, Rep. Jim Murphy of Oakville announced Thursday.

Murphy told The Call he planned to literally knock on Gov. Mike Parson’s door this week to get the state to run a mass event in South County, and Parson agreed to schedule the event for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 3, at Bernard Middle School, 1054 Forder Road.

The state registration portal, the Missouri Vaccine Navigator, will be open for citizens of South County to register for the South County event on Monday, Murphy said. There will be 1,200 doses of vaccine available.

Previous state-run vaccine events in Arnold, St. Louis County and the Family Arena in St. Charles have all taken registrations from the local counties’ preregistration lists instead of the state list. The state Navigator, meanwhile, has been giving South County residents who are eligible for the vaccine opportunities to attend vaccine events halfway across the state. Last week, the closest event offered for the state registration list was in West Plains. Some residents have driven hours for the vaccine.

“It is frustrating to everybody, I just want to get our fair share in South County,” Murphy previously told The Call, adding, “I want to see an event in this area so that my constituents don’t have to travel to Farmington or St. Charles or Queeny Park or North County or in the city. I want ‘em right here in South County.”

Murphy wrote a letter last week to County Executive Sam Page offering Oakville High School as a mass vaccination site for St. Louis County to run. So far, St. Louis County has held mass vaccination events in North County and, this weekend, in West County at Queeny Park’s Greensfelder Recreation Center.

The Oakville legislator said in a news release that he was “frustrated by the lack of action by the St. Louis County Executive, who has failed to prioritize South County for much-needed vaccination events.”

Murphy wrote a letter to Parson this week asking for his assistance and said he “immediately” received a response from the governor with support for the plan. In the announcement of the mass site, Murphy thanked the governor for working with him to hold a first-of-its-kind, community-sponsored mass vaccination event in his area.
“I thought County Executive Page was working with me in good faith to address the vaccine needs of South County, but when it became obvious he was not being genuine in his dealings with me, I turned to Gov. Parson for help. Thankfully the governor was able to quickly respond and provide support for this incredibly important event that will provide vaccines to hundreds of residents here in South County,” said Murphy, R-Oakville.
Prior to contacting the governor’s office, Murphy had worked to secure a location and had received commitments from more than a dozen registered nurses willing to volunteer to administer shots at the event. Murphy said the event is a “true community effort as everyone has pulled together to ensure residents will be able to receive the vaccine.”
Murphy said in the announcement, “I would like to thank the governor and everyone here in our area who has come together so quickly to make this happen. The response from my community has been overwhelming and the willingness of the citizens of South County to volunteer a location and to provide their expertise and manpower in order to have such an event has been gratifying. I would also like to thank the Mehlville Fire District and Mehlville School District for their assistance and expertise. ”

Page has said that until recent weeks, the county was limited in the shots it could give out by the state supply of vaccines, which was sent elsewhere. The vaccine sites at the two South County fire districts opened Feb. 4 and have been distributing shots as supply is available. There was a larger mass vaccine site at Florissant Valley, but until the North County-centered events last week, all the sites were open to any county resident regardless of ZIP code.

With a greater vaccine supply in hand in recent weeks, however, Page said Monday that the county has been eyeing the preregistration rates on its list by ZIP code, and overall, some of North County’s ZIP codes have a 5-percent preregistration rate while areas in South County and West County are above 20 percent. A few areas in the western part of South County lag behind, Page said, and county officials believe the Queeny Park site could address that disparity.

Page also noted the two vaccine sites at fire districts in Mehlville and Affton: “We vaccinate more people each week in those two vaccination sites in South County than we could at a mass vaccination event on a weekend. … We certainly are looking at more mass vaccination sites — but really the best way to get more people vaccinated is to have more and more small sites, more vaccinators, more pharmacies, more doctor’s offices, more partners in the community vaccinating a few hundred people every day.”