VACCINATION CLINICS will begin in Northeast Missouri next week, signaling what everyone hopes will be a big step toward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

An earlier round of coronavirus vaccine was provided at Hannibal Regional Hospital for health care professionals and assorted front-line workers. The vaccinations that will begin on Wednesday will be open to people who are 65 or older, as well as those with certain health conditions that would increase risks if they contract the virus.

“Hannibal Regional is honored to be a designated vaccinator for the region and we look forward to taking this important step in the fight against COVID-19,” Todd Ahrens, president and CEO of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, said in a release.

Vaccinations will be given by appointment only. No walk-ins will be accepted.

With patients coming in at set times, the hospital will avoid the type of confusion and gridlock that has been seen in some metropolitan areas where lines of cars have stretched far outside of non-appointment vaccination centers.

“While the vaccination clinics are dependent on Hannibal Regional’s current supply of the vaccine, we are working hard to secure more doses of this vital resource for our region,” Ahrens said.

To secure enough vaccine to handle all the region’s needs, the hospital will need to work with the state and with pharmaceutical companies.

Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that the state will move into Phase 1B – Tier 2 of the Missouri COVID-19 Vaccination Plan on Monday. Under that phase of the vaccination rollout, people who are at increased risk for severe illness will be eligible to receive the vaccine. Patients who are 65 and older will be given priority, along with adults who have cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, intellectual or developmental disabilities, heart conditions, weakened immune systems, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease or Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

President-elect Joe Biden is proposing legislation that would earmark another $400 billion toward programs that will combat the coronavirus. It would boost hiring of health care workers, expand virus testing and help schools reopen. Biden also has set of goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

The pace of vaccination in the U.S. is approaching 1 million shots a day, but 1.8 million a day would be needed to reach widespread or “herd” immunity by the summer, according to a recent estimate by the American Hospital Association.

To date, 23.4 million Americans have contracted the virus and 389,000 have died. The vast majority of those who died were 65 or older, or had other health issues. However, tens of thousands of younger patients and those with no outward signs of ill health have died.

Globally, the virus has killed more than 2 million people.

Those who receive a vaccination will need a second shot, several weeks later, to receive full protection from the virus. It takes a few weeks after getting the vaccine for the body to develop antibodies and provide protection from the coronavirus.

Protection for the region’s population also will take time. This is no time to stop wearing masks, washing hands or limiting travel to the bare necessities. These seemingly small decisions can still have life and death consequences.

Appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at Hannibal Regional Hospital may be made by calling 573-629-3570 starting Monday.

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