Our Call: No guts, no ‘Glory’ as the vaccine rollout divides Missouri

Editorial

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Former Rep. Carl Hendrickson writes in his column this week about the tradition of honoring students with the “Glory of Missouri” awards, embodied by the 14 virtues that “make a people great” commemorated on the Capitol walls: Charity, education, enterprise, equality, fraternity, honor, justice, knowledge, law, liberty, progress, temperance, truth and virtue.

Perhaps today’s Missouri politicians are misinterpreting that list, because the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has so far consisted of partisanship, pettiness, favoritism and incompetence.

Missouri ranks 50th in the rollout, a ranking that is even more outrageous since it is now crystal clear that the state is lagging so far behind because officials are directing doses to more rural populations at the expense of St. Louis and Kansas City, where most of Missouri actually lives.

While rural residents justifiably worried at the start about access to the shot, the data tells the story now: Gov. Mike Parson, a farmer from Bolivar, has favored rural areas over urban. Last week St Louis County, population 1 million, hosted its first state-run mass vaccination site with just 2,500 doses, while Canton,  population 2,377, hosted a state event with the same number of doses.

In St. Louis County, residents  who have been patiently wearing masks and following all the protocols since last year have had to resort to 500-mile roundtrips to far-flung towns in order to get the vaccine that should be readily available to them nearby.

In the absence of leadership from the governor, a Legislature that embodies the “Glory of Missouri” could step in, but we have little hope of that. Republicans in the House and Senate voted not to require masks in the Capitol even as there were active outbreaks among both legislative bodies, which shows how seriously they’re taking this pandemic.

Democratic lawmakers mostly wear masks, but many of them — including a 26-year-old legislator from St. Louis — ran to the front of the line to get vaccinated at a state worker event that they weren’t qualified for.

The state’s vaccine rollout can’t get any worse. The time is now for the state to step up and “Show Me” the vaccines. That would truly be the “Glory of Missouri.”