ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says he is hopeful those who are part of Phase 1B for the COVID-19 shot can start to get them next month.
Dr. Alex Garza expects everyone in the 1A category (healthcare workers and long-term care facilities) to have at least the first shot of the vaccine by the middle of next month.
Right now, those in health care systems, EMS workers, school nurses, federally qualified health centers, community based health care workers who have a relationship with a health system will be contacted by the task force and they and will work to coordinate times for vaccinations. No one can contact or walk in at a health care system vaccine site and get a vaccine.
As for Phase 1B, the task force says they're not ready to make any announcements. They're working on setting up logistics that go along with vaccinating the more than 1.5 million St. Louis region residents who will fall in this newly announced tier.
Garza also said that teachers and all first responders were moved from Phase 1B to Phase 1A for vaccinations, but state health officials say that is not the case. Garza's spokesperson later said the doctor misspoke and meant to say school nurses, not teachers.
If everything goes according to plan, Garza said Phase 1B should start one month from now.
"The 1B population is pretty big. That's the essential workers and people over the age of 75, so the definition of essential worker is pretty broad. We think a sizable piece of the public will actually fit into that 1B category," Dr. Garza said. "The challenge is always that you never know the total amount in that group. Are we talking about 1,000 people are we talking about 100,000 people?"
In the name of expediency, Dr. Garza said the task force is working on plans to vaccinate people eventually at primary care offices, pharmacies and specific points of distribution, also known as "pods."
Right now, numbers show only about two percent of people in the region area have received the vaccine in the last month.
Garza admits there have been some challenges nailing down a firm delivery schedule from the state, which plays a role in how much vaccine St. Louis is getting and when.
As we move toward a time when the general public is eligible for the vaccine, Garza said he's hoping an information clearing house can be established so people will know when it's their turn to get a dose.
"We would like to have a simplified method like a one-stop shop people can go to to get information about the vaccine, but also then register for vaccine," He said. "Of course not everyone is going to be at the top of the line, there's going to be a tiering process, but if we can collect the information from people and get everybody to the que, we have a better idea of who needs to get vaccinated. At that time then we can start dividing up the work."
Dr. Garza said the task force is working on plans to set up that portal now.
St. Louis County and St. Charles County already set up portals.