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story.lead_photo.caption Levon Cumpton, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, speaks during Gov. Mike Parson's COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo by Missouri Governor's Office

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday asked the state's residents to remain patient during the roll-out of vaccines for the coronavirus.

The state opened vaccinations Monday for some 2.5 million people but is only to receive about 80,000 doses this week and next.

"We're thankful that we're starting to see a decline in cases, but the volume of COVID-19 hospitalizations remained high," Parson said during a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday. "Although we are seeing signs of hospitalization declining, our health system still remains strained."

He said the state has contracted with 288 health professionals to provide support for hospitals through a partnership with Vizient, a health care performance improvement company.

Even though numbers appear to be declining, Missourians need to continue to take precautions, such as washing hands frequently, wearing masks and social distancing.

"On the vaccine front, supply remains extremely limited," Parson said. "But every day we are in a better place than we were before."

Health care workers have administered more than 265,000 doses in Missouri to date. However, data is not being updated quickly and health officials believe the number of shots actually put in people's arms is higher.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said 140,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were shipped to Walgreens and CVS pharmacies for residents of the 1,300 nursing facilities in Missouri, as that's where 40 percent of mortalities are coming from.

When he looked Wednesday morning, Williams said, he saw only about 26,000 residents were reported to have been vaccinated.

"I think there are more than that who have been vaccinated or are being vaccinated," Williams said. "That's a universe of about 120,000 that we don't control the reporting of."

The pharmacies are expected to complete vaccinations in the facilities Monday.

Parson on Wednesday announced a partnership between the Missouri National Guard to help speed up the vaccination process. The Guard will work with DHSS and other state partners to establish mass vaccination sites across Missouri.

There will be one mass vaccination team assigned to each of Missouri's nine Highway Patrol regions. (The region in Central Missouri is served by Troop F and is made up of 13 counties, including Cole, Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Cooper, Gasconade, Howard, Miller, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan and Osage counties.)

"Each team will have the capability to administer as many as 2,500 doses per day," Parson said. "The National Guard has started the process of securing these sites and will start administering vaccines by the end of the month."

The teams consist of 30 support personnel who provide assistance with traffic control, administrative support and data input.

The first mass vaccination site is to be in Southeast Missouri. It will be set up by this weekend, Parson said.

More information will be released once sites and dates are finalized.

The National Guard will send targeted vaccination teams to Kansas City and St. Louis to assist the most vulnerable populations. Four-person teams include one vaccinator and three support staff who assist with administrative duties.

"The purpose of these vaccination teams is to support our vaccinators and provide additional vaccination sources for eligible Missourians that may otherwise have a hard time receiving one," Parson said.

The National Guard will also deploy administration teams to assist with data backlogs at local levels. Administration teams consist of three people who assist providers with paperwork and data backlogs caused by vaccination entry requirements.

The state continues to get a number of vaccines received, compared to the number administered, Parson said. A significant difference in the numbers is the delay in reporting, he said.

Manual reporting in some communities is slowing the process, causing the number administered to appear smaller than the true number.

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