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Delays Hinder COVID Vaccinations As Requirements, Access Loosen

A line of cars waits at one of the drive-thru clinics available throughout the state. Vaccinations are free, and Mississippians can make appointments online or by phone. Photo courtesy Mississippi Department of Health

A line of cars waits at one of the drive-thru clinics available throughout the state. Vaccinations are free, and Mississippians can make appointments online or by phone. Photo courtesy Mississippi Department of Health

More Mississippians than ever now qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations, but only one-quarter of the total doses in the state so far have been administered—62,744 out of 249,100. Mississippians over 65 years of age now qualify for the vaccine, as well as those with any of a multitude of pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or obesity.

“We obviously have more work to do, but we are quickly improving,” Gov. Tate Reeves said at yesterday’s press conference.

The lowered qualifications come from the top down, as the federal government released its reserves of second-round doses country-wide to help vaccinate as many people as possible. The influx of doses comes with a hitch—states that do not quickly use their allotments can have them redirected toward states that use them more efficiently.

“If you are not using vaccines that you have the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine,” Health and Humans Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

“I don’t blame them,” Reeves responded. “That’s why it is so important that we continue to work to get these vaccines out.”

The news comes as a double-edged sword to Mississippi, especially in relation to the state’s long-term care facilities. Walgreens is contracted to administer vaccinations to the facilities under the Federal Pharmacy Program, which currently has access to 89,700 vaccines, but a lack of contractually appropriate staff has thus far prevented a timely use of resources.

Hospitals and clinics control the remaining 159,400 vaccines, and while vaccination rates are higher here than among LTCs, the governor has asserted that hospitals must rapidly improve their delivery rates.

“They've been given an allocation, and in some instances they're not using them, and that has to stop. It's why we've largely supplanted them with state-run drive-thu clinics,” Reeves said.

“If the hospitals will not give us the data on how much they're giving out, it’s going to start costing us doses of the vaccine,” the governor added. “We need to get this right, and we need to get this right fast.”

As the State rushes to vaccinate Mississippi, the pandemic grows deadlier than ever. Mississippi reached yet another record number of coronavirus deaths with the Mississippi State Department of Health reporting 98 fatalities yesterday. The same day’s report also showed 1,648 new cases, while today’s report showed 1,942 new cases and 31 deaths.

Expanded vaccination access is underway, but the availability has come with technical difficulties. “Today we opened up the COVID Vaccine to 65+ and those with preexisting conditions. Huge surge in calls and web traffic are causing delays for users, but please keep at it! Working our end as well. Bottleneck is not ideal, but the alternative (restricting access) is worse,” Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted yesterday.

MSDH has added a second phone line for vaccination inquiries and appointments. In addition to 877-978-6453, Mississippians can also call 601-965-4071 or make online vaccine appointments here.

Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email contributing reporter Julian Mills at [email protected].

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