As we started the new year reporting on the urgency of hospitalizations in our region, we were also able to update the community on vaccine distribution across the state.

North Mississippi Health Services reported 113 hospitalized in-patients last week, a record for the system, while the facility in Tupelo is expanding an older, unused wing of the hospital for COVID-19 patients. North Mississippi Medical Center President David Wilson said he does not think we’ve seen our peak yet.

As we reported this news, the Mississippi State Department of Health opened 18 drive-through COVID-19 vaccination locations throughout the state to provide the vaccine for health care workers. According to data provided by State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs on Friday, 5,499 appointments were made, 5,102 shots administered with 366 no shows/cancellations. Dr. Dobbs expressed encouragement with the progress of vaccinations and said it’s continuing to expand.

And this week, those ages 75 and older have access to the vaccine; Mississippians 65 and older will gain access in another week. This comes after Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that the state should administer shots to as many Mississippians as possible and said older citizens would be able to receive the vaccine sooner than originally planned.

Gov. Reeves said repeatedly last week that vaccinations were not being distributed quickly enough. In a Twitter thread on Friday, the governor said he has discussed with officials the idea of doubling the number the vaccination sites, the number of days the sites will be open and the number of appointments available each day. Gov. Reeves also said that government logistics should not stand in the way of Mississippians getting the vaccine and that “we can’t lose precious months to debate over who is more essential. We need to quickly get this out to everyone we can.”

We continue to stand behind our health care officials and thank them for their efforts to keep the community informed. We are navigating a difficult stretch in the pandemic, and we will continue to keep you informed on vaccine distribution. For those eligible now, you can make appointments by going to COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID call center at 1-877-978-6453.

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