Missouri will phase out its state-sponsored mass vaccinations by next month, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday.
Starting in June, the Missouri National Guard will use only “targeted” teams in underserved areas of Kansas City and Missouri. Events scheduled in May will still be held.
“We are in a far different situation today than we were just a couple months ago,” Parson said in a statement. “In the beginning, vaccine demand far outweighed vaccine supply. Now, we are seeing the reverse of that, and the need for large scale vaccination events has lessened.”
COVID-19 vaccines are more available than ever, and individuals over the age of 16 in Missouri have been eligible for weeks. But recently there’s been a “sharp reduction” in demand, according to the state.
As of Thursday, close to 40% of the population has gotten the first dose, and under a third have been fully vaccinated. Experts say roughly 75 to 80% of the public needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
The rates of vaccination vary across the state. The Star reported on Sunday there is a 33-point gap between Missouri counties with the highest and lowest vaccination rates.
The state originally gave out close to a quarter of its vaccines at mass events in each of the state’s nine highway patrol regions. As eligibility has opened up and supply has increased, the state has shifted a greater share of the vaccines toward clinics and local health agencies, allowing 80% of Missourians to be within five miles of a vaccine provider, officials said.
The mass events have accounted for 10% of vaccines administered in the state, or more than 380,000 doses.
State health officials are working with those providers “to promote more convenience-driven vaccine options for Missourians like walk-up availability and extended hours of operation,” officials said.
On Wednesday Parson announced that with vaccines so available, he was ordering all state workers back to the office by mid-May.