Virus Outbreak Mississippi

Mississippi’s State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaks about the need for state residents who are 65 and older and those with preexisting conditions need to receive the coronavirus vaccine during a recent press conference.

Mississippians can begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations at 31 Walmart locations across the state beginning Tuesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced during a press conference on Monday.

Four Walmart locations in Northeast Mississippi will administer the vaccine: Corinth in Alcorn County at 2301 S Harper Road, Houston in Chickasaw County at 660 E Madison Street, Tupelo in Lee County at 3929 N Gloster Street, and New Albany in Union County at 202 Park Plaza Drive.

The full list of locations throughout the state can be found on the MSDH website under the “Vaccination Against COVID-19” section or by visiting the following link: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/12728.pdf.

“The locations were chosen in a manner to try to help balance out some of the gaps, whether it’s because of different communities, rural or otherwise underserved, so hopefully that will help fill some of that gap,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.

Those appointments can be scheduled starting by visiting walmart.com/covidvaccine and entering a zip code to find nearby locations, but appointments will not open up until Tuesday and vaccinations will likely not begin until Friday.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said each location is set to receive around 200 doses per week, but that number may increase depending on uptake.

The doses for Walmart locations are federally allocated and will not come out of the state’s weekly 45,000-dose allocation.

Planning is also underway for another vaccination partnership through local and independent community pharmacies, Dobbs said, and locations will be announced as soon as it’s finalized.

More than 334,000 total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Mississippi as of Feb. 8 – 271,310 first doses and 62,690 second doses.

Dobbs said 39.4% of all Mississippians 75 and older, along with 31.9% of those 65 and older, have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine.

“That’s going to pay phenomenal dividends going forward, but we will continue to try to make progress within these groups of people who are most vulnerable,” Dobbs said.

Eligible residents can continue to schedule vaccination appointments via MSDH by visiting covidvaccine.umc.edu or calling 877-978-6453.

Byers said the department has received an influx of questions regarding vaccinations of individuals from out-of-state.

To be eligible for vaccination in Mississippi at a vaccine provider or drive-thru clinic, a person must either be a Mississippi resident or work in the state, “because we know that it is important to get those individuals who are in our state working and spending time in Mississippi vaccinated and covered as well,” Byers said.

A total of 6,777 individuals with out-of-state addresses have been vaccinated by a vaccine provider in Mississippi. That’s about 2% of the total vaccines administered across the state so far.

The state does not perform identification checks for those receiving vaccines because MSDH is looking to remove barriers rather than create them, according to Dobbs.

Dobbs said the magnitude of the problem with out-of-state residents being vaccinated is “not really severe,” and added that the opposite is also happening with Mississippians being vaccinated in Louisiana for example.

“It’s an interesting anecdote, but I think by and large the main story is by lowering barriers and increasing access, we can get Mississippians protected as quickly as possible,” Dobbs said.

MSDH reported only 635 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the lowest case count in quite some time, but Dobbs continues to urge vigilant mask-wearing and social distancing.

“Over the past week, we have seen a decline in cases which is fantastic news but we do not need to use this as an opportunity to let our guard down,” Dobbs said. “Just because we’re making progress, that doesn’t mean that we can keep doing those simple things that prevent transmission.”

“We have an opportunity right now to get as many people vaccinated as possible and try to get a lid on this thing in the state of Mississippi,” he added.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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