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Residents drive hours to rural counties where vaccine doses go unused

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    St. Louis (KMOV) — Hundreds of thousands of people in the current tiers are scrambling to find vaccines and some are driving half way across the state where there are surpluses.

Missouri’s governor is expected to make an announcement about moving to the next phase in the state’s vaccine rollout Thursday afternoon.

After weeks of pleading for additional COVID-19 vaccine doses, St. Louis County leaders have announced the state is sending more their way.

Brad Stites and his wife drove 87 miles Wednesday afternoon to get a vaccine after seeing a tweet by News 4’s Alexis Zotos about available extra vaccines in Bolinger County. The county had many extra doses at their mass vaccine site that they opened it up to anyone to make sure none of the doses go to waste.

“Christine says, ‘we gotta go right now. Get your coat on we’re leaving,’ so we were gone in five minutes,” Stites said.

The Jefferson County residents headed to Leopold, Missouri – two hours south of St. Louis. The town’s population is 65. The tiny town held one of the state’s mass vaccination events in Bolinger County at their Knights of Columbus Hall. By midday, they had hundreds of extra doses and they opened it up to anyone who could get there.

“I was very surprised by how small of a town it was and that they had so many vaccines,” Stites said. The 59-year-old is not yet eligible. “I think the number was 1400 unused vaccines.”

Health officials in McDonald County are looking for arms Wednesday, as they say they have roughly 300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine still available and have already covered most of the county’s population.

Meanwhile St. Louis County is struggling to get through current tiers. “We still have a demand for the vaccine that’s greater than the supply,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a Wednesday morning press briefing.

Rural areas like McDonald County in southwestern Missouri continue to have extra doses. They too offered it up to anyone who could get there and they still had extras which will now be shared with Springfield, Missouri.

The governor’s office continues to say vaccines are distributed based on population. We asked the state health department if they plan to change up their allocations if the interest isn’t there. State officials sent the following statement:

“We are making a lot of progress within the mass vaccination team to ensure these types of situations don’t occur moving forward. We will continue to work with the local teams to ensure the amount of vaccine allocated more closely matches the need within the area.”

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