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Missouri continues to see improvements across the board in its fight against COVID-19, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday afternoon.

That includes where it comes to the number of vaccines available and the economy, he said during his weekly COVID-19 update.

Missouri has the lowest rate of infection in the nation, he said.

The state's seven-day positivity rate remains steady at about 4 percent.

"Hospitalizations have dropped below 800 for the first time since August," Parson said. "Health care systems continue to feel relief as case rates decline and the vaccine impact kicks in."

He pointed out the state activated Phase 2 of its vaccination plan Monday and the state will make all Missouri adults qualified to receive vaccinations April 9.

"We had great success with our state-supported vaccine events in the St. Louis area last week — administering more than 20,000 initial doses in just three days," Parson said.

He pointed out the numbers don't include other doses of the vaccine that continue to be administered in the area.

The state also announced an eight-week program, partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to provide 168,000 vaccinations in St. Louis.

The program is to launch Wednesday and vaccinate up to 3,000 people daily, seven days a week.

The state has been negotiating with FEMA to establish a federal site since January, Parson said.

"We knew that once supply started to pick up we would be able to do this. And we look forward to the opportunity to deliver even more vaccines to the St. Louis area," Parson said. "They did offer their services to come to Missouri in support without vaccine — but at the time, labor wasn't the issue because we had the (Missouri National) Guard."

It was strictly a question of having the vaccine to support more mass vaccination clinics.

Once the vaccination became available, the partnership also became a reality.

Providers have administered more than 2.3 million doses of vaccine in the state.

More than 1.5 million Missourians have initiated the vaccinations. And some 875,000 people have completed the vaccination protocol, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more than 66 percent of Missourians 65 and older, and 32 percent of the 18 and older population have received an initial vaccination.

Fewer Missourians 65 and older are being hospitalized, showing the vaccination plan is working to protect the most vulnerable populations, Parson said.

However, Parson pointed out that fewer older patients are arriving in hospitals because of the pandemic, more people in the age range around 50 appear to require hospitalization.

The more state leaders learn about the vaccines, the more encouraged they are, said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Pfizer's vaccine is 90 percent effective after the first shot and 95 percent effective after the second shot. Pfizer's vaccine also is 100 percent effective for 12- to 16-year-olds.

There also seem to be very few adverse reactions nationwide, Williams said.

The state's health leaders have anticipated that Missouri would see a significant upswing in the number of vaccinations reaching the state as April arrived.

"It's increasing significantly," Williams said.

Missouri's allotment of vaccinations has risen to 250,000-300,000 doses weekly, he said.

On top of that, the U.S. government is shipping vaccine to dialysis centers, federally qualified health centers, pharmacies, FEMA in St. Louis (168,000 units), Walmart and Health Mart.

"All of those, in addition to the state allocation with the federal allocation you easily can see vaccinating 1.2 million people here in Missouri in April," Williams said. "We welcome all the vaccine we can get through whichever portal it comes."

He added the federal government made it clear that states are their primary concern.

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