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Revised plans for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines are promising and a good start on protecting the region from the disease; that protection will also provide our economy a needed shot in the arm.

Missouri officials on Monday rolled out a new distribution plan that uses regional hospitals as key vaccination sites. The new plan is a needed fresh start given that our state has a dismal record so far getting the vaccine into the arms of residents. Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin will work to get doses in the arms of Joplin-area residents as quickly as they become available.

Freeman and Mercy will begin receiving increased vaccine doses this week from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Residents now eligible in Phase 1A as well as tiers 1 and 2 of Phase 1B should get the vaccine more quickly under the new plan.

“We will have a more consistent vaccine supply in our area, and that will allow us to open up more appointments and to get more vaccines into arms quicker,” said Sarah Boyd, Mercy’s director of pharmacy.

Sources say 11,400 total doses, received every other week starting this week, will be split among Freeman Health System and the Mercy hospitals in Joplin and Springfield.

“We will work it out between us and Mercy and just do what is best so we can give the shots as quickly as possible,” said Jeff Thompson, vice president of pharmacy services for Freeman Health System.

The state also plans to use the Missouri National Guard for regional mass vaccination events in partnership with local groups. Local public health agencies and other federally qualified health centers will also receive more regular supplies.

Joplin’s health director, Ryan Talken, said this past week that case numbers were stable for now and that the seven-day average has been flat for a week at 20.5. He also said the COVID-19 vaccine has been in short supply in the Joplin area, but health providers are working on ways to more widely distribute what is received. This plan will be a big step toward that goal.

A more predictable and reliable supply coupled with the cooperation between the two major area health providers should improve planning and mean that appointments can be scheduled to get as many eligible residents as possible vaccinated quickly. And that is our best hope to get our homes, schools, communities and businesses back on a steady footing.

Broad immunity through a reliable vaccination program is our best hope of restoring our economy and our lives to some sort of normalcy.

This plan is a path to that new normal.

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