Tupelo • Some Mississippians will have the opportunity to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments at select Walmart pharmacies beginning late next week, Gov. Tate Reeves announced during a press conference on Tuesday.
Approximately 30 Walmart pharmacies across the state will be activated by Feb. 12, State Health Office Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. MSDH does not yet have a final list of stores, but will post them online in the coming days.
Reeves said approximately 10% of the state’s total vaccine allotment next week will go to the program. Dobbs anticipates about 6,200 doses will be distributed to the Walmart partner locations during the first week.
The Walmart partnership is a result of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccination, which is a collaboration between the federal government, states and 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks.
Reeves, along with governors across the U.S., spoke with members of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force on Tuesday morning to discuss details of the federal partnership.
The federal pharmacy program aims to fight racial disparities and target rural areas, Reeves said. While the governor said he is “hopeful that they are correct in their efforts,” he remains “somewhat concerned” about the program’s effectiveness in reaching rural communities.
“While it’s probably true in Washington, D.C. or New York City that you can walk a block in either direction and run into a Walgreens or a CVS or Walmart … in Mississippi, there aren’t a lot of Walmarts in Issaquena County,” Reeves said. “There aren’t a lot of Walmarts in very rural areas.”
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is the fifth avenue by which Mississippi is distributing vaccines to its residents. The other four are state-run sites operated by MSDH and the National Guard, the federal pharmacy partnership with long-term care facilities, a hospital distribution network and private clinics.
A list of vaccination partners are posted on the MSDH website to show Mississippians show local options available to them outside of drive-thru clinics. It can be accessed by visiting the “Vaccination Against COVID-19” section of MSDH’s website.
The new federal pharmacy partnership comes as the state surpassed 250,000 residents vaccinated on Feb. 1, Reeves said.
The logistical challenge at state-run sites will rise this week as the state begins to administer both first and second doses to eligible Mississippians.
Reeves anticipates vaccinating around 49,000 Mississippians this week, and hopes to move to approximately 60,000 per week in the weeks ahead, but demand will continue to outpace supply for the time being.
“I think we all need to understand that the supply is not going to meet the demand going forward, but a quarter million vaccinations is pretty good for a state the size of Mississippi,” Dobbs said, adding that about 40% of people over the age of 75 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.