TUPELO • Mississippi’s teachers and first responders will be eligible for vaccination for COVID-19 on Monday, March 1.
Gov. Tate Reeves announced the expanded vaccination efforts during a press conference on Tuesday. Those newly eligible for vaccination may begin booking appointments on Wednesday.
The group includes all teachers, staff and employees at K-12, preschool or child care settings in the state, along with all law enforcement, public safety, fire services and emergency management officials.
"It is exciting news for those who have been working hard to keep our schools open and our streets safe," Reeves said.
The governor commended Mississippi's K-12 schools for their efforts to reopen last August and provide in-person learning options for students.
"Our kids have been learning," Reeves said. "Our kids have been growing. They've been achieving. That's because of the dedication of our teachers, and we want to make it even more safe for them to do their jobs."
College and university professors, staff and employees are not included in the next round of eligible vaccine recipients, but "we will certainly add them soon," Reeves said.
The governor pointed out that a large segment of that group, along with teachers and first responders, have already been eligible because they are either over 65 or have pre-existing conditions that make them eligible.
"I think they're certainly next up," Reeves said of employees in higher education. "As we expand further and as we watch what demand does, it will give us the ability to expand. I'm ready to be at the point where anybody in the state can get it at any time, and we're close. We're really close."
Reeves said “tens of thousands” of appointments will be added on Wednesday, which the newly eligible group will have a shot at booking. Residents can schedule appointments by calling the state’s COVID hotline at 877-978-6453 or visiting covidvaccine.umc.edu.
A total of 505,980 doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to Mississippians as of Tuesday — 349,506 first doses and 156,474 second doses.
Due to winter weather interruptions, a lower number of vaccines were distributed last week — only 32,540 COVID-19 vaccinations between Feb. 14 and 20, compared to 106,691 between Feb. 7 and 13.
Reeves said MSDH's drive-thru sites alone will go from what would have been 60,000 appointments this week to almost 87,000 as rescheduled appointments are fulfilled.