With more COVID-19 vaccine supplies available from the state and federal government, a legislator is pushing for the county or state to hold a mass vaccine event in South County — seemingly the only area on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region that is not yet scheduled for a mass vaccine event.
The county opened a mass vaccine site at the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College weeks ago, and has since started a series of mass vaccine events at the North County Recreation Center. The county will also hold a “mega” vaccine site this weekend in collaboration with the state at the Greensfelder Recreation Center in Queeny Park in West County. The state is also holding events in St. Louis city and St. Charles at the Family Arena.
On a conference call with legislators last week, Rep. Jim Murphy said that County Executive Sam Page promised to hold a South County event if Murphy helped find a location.
Within a day, Murphy approached the Mehlville School District — where his two children Jamey Murphy and Katy Eardley have served in the past as members of the Board of Education — and secured a commitment from the district to provide Oakville High School as a mass vaccination site. The district used the high school as the location of its own mass vaccine event for its teachers and staff last Friday.
Page wrote back to Murphy noting that the county would look at the site and others for mass events but is also giving out hundreds of shots at smaller mass vaccination sites at the Mehlville and Affton fire districts.
To Murphy, that response wasn’t enough. He took to social media and received hundreds of offers from nurses and volunteers, so he doesn’t believe that the South County site would take any resources from other sites or have to be delayed to find people to hand out shots.
Unhappy with the response from Page, the legislator said he will be literally knocking on Gov. Mike Parson’s office door this week when Murphy returns to Jefferson City, asking for a state-run mass vaccine site in South County.
“It is frustrating to everybody, I just want to get our fair share in South County,” Murphy said, 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.”
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 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.”