Last updated: July 15, 2021

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We, like you, have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccination process in Mississippi. 

We’ve asked the state’s top healthcare officials key questions and compiled information from the Mississippi State Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Below, you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard.

We realize your questions may not be listed or addressed here. This page will be updated continuously. If you have questions that aren’t answered, please email us at tips@mississippitoday.org, and we’ll do our best to get them answered.

You should also visit the health department’s vaccine page for basic information. The state health department also has a hotline you can call to ask questions about the vaccine process. 

To schedule an appointment through the phone, call 1-877-978-6453. The MSDH recently added an additional number to call, 601-965-4071.

Am I eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

All Mississippians ages 16+ became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 16, 2021. Mississippi was the second state to open up vaccine eligibility to the maximum number of residents.

Mississippians as young as 12 are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The Mississippi State Department of Health, which is managing the state’s vaccine distribution, has partnered with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and opened drive-thru vaccination sites in across the state. If you are qualified to receive the vaccine, you may schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine through the MSDH/UMMC partnership at this link. You can also call the state’s COVID-19 hotline to schedule an appointment at 1-877-978-6453.

MSDH will now come directly to the homes of people who want to get vaccinated but don’t have reliable transportation. They’re also offering this option to businesses or other local organizations that want to host vaccination drives.

Hospital systems, community health centers and other healthcare providers across the state are also vaccinating patients, separate from the MSDH/UMMC partnership. Click here to see a map of healthcare providers that are providing the vaccines to Mississippians. Phone numbers of these providers are listed on this link, and many of the providers have COVID-19 vaccine websites where you can find more information.

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen or a Mississippi resident to receive a vaccine?

MSDH said it will vaccinate anyone who lives or works in the state, and that it doesn’t ask for identification at its drive-thru sites with the goal of vaccinating as many people as possible.

Do I need to get both doses at the same location?

MSDH said it prefers for people to receive both doses at the same location for logistical reasons, but that it is not necessary to do so.

Is it safe for me to take a COVID-19 vaccine?

Numerous studies for both of the currently available vaccines have been conducted by the world’s leading health experts over the last several months, and MSDH epidemiologists have studied that data. COVID-19 vaccines have been subjected to the same rigorous process for evaluating safety and effectiveness as any other vaccine approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The state’s top health officials were the first Mississippians to become inoculated, and they did it in front of television cameras to assure the public that the vaccine is safe. Top elected officials of both major parties and all backgrounds, including Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, have publicly urged Mississippians to get vaccinated.

As with any vaccine, there can be some side effects. Generally speaking, data from thorough clinical trials demonstrate that “the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More safety information about the vaccines can be found here.

How are vaccines distributed?

The federal government oversees a centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccines are ordered through the CDC. Vaccine providers will receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer.

The Mississippi State Department of Health is working with the CDC to manage the vaccine distribution process, sending vaccine to private providers and hospitals throughout the state.

Is the vaccine free?

It depends on where you receive it. Some vaccination providers like the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health, are offering the vaccines free of charge.

However, vaccination providers can choose to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Which vaccines are available in Mississippi?

The Mississippi Department of Health is using all three vaccines approved for use in the United States. The Moderna and Pfizer BioNtech vaccines require two doses. The Janssen vaccine only requires one dose.

If I receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, do I need both doses for the vaccine to be fully effective?

Yes. The Moderna vaccine requires the second shot to be administered 28 days after the first dose, and the Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days later. These two types of vaccines are not interchangeable; you must receive the same kind in your second dose as you did for your first.

MSDH said it prefers for people to receive both doses at the same location for logistical reasons, but that it is not necessary to do so. 

Do I need to show photo ID to get the vaccine?

MSDH is not requiring anyone to show photo ID to get a vaccine at any of their drive-thru sites. This policy is in place to remove barriers for people who might not have photo ID or undocumented people. In isolated incidents, people have been asked to show ID due to confusion at the local level, but MSDH has corrected this behavior whenever its been reported. Private clinics and federal partners (Walgreens, Walmart etc) often require photo ID.

I’m pregnant. Can I take the vaccine?

The MSDH says, “Pregnant women and lactating women and those who are immunocompromised may take the vaccine; however, consultation with your health care provider is recommended.”

The CDC notes there is limited data about the safety of COVID vaccines for pregnant women, though “…experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.”

I’ve already had COVID-19. Can I get the vaccine?

Yes. If you are out of your isolation period — 10 days after the onset of symptoms or 10 days after the test was done if you have no symptoms — and you no longer have symptoms or they have significantly subsided, you can get the vaccine if it is available to you. Health experts say that recovering from COVID-19 and then being vaccinated is the highest level of protection one can achieve against the virus.

Can I still spread the virus after being vaccinated?

According to the CDC: “It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick.”

There are exceedingly rare “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19, where a vaccinated person is still infected with the virus. As of April 30, the CDC had identified 10,262 breakthrough cases across the United States among the more than 101 million Americans who have been vaccinated.

Once I get the vaccine, can I return to life as normal?

The Mississippi State Department of Health encourages people who receive the vaccine to continue following CDC guidelines. Current guidance states that in general “you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings” if you’re fully vaccinated. In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended you wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings, or other environments where you will come in to close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, said in a Meet The Press appearance on July 4 that he would still wear a mask in Mississippi even though he’s fully vaccinated.

“You might want to go the extra step and say that when I’m in that area, where there’s a considerable degree of viral circulation, I might want to go the extra mile to ensure that I get the extra added layer of protection, even though the vaccines themselves are highly effective,” Fauci said.

What does the emergence of the Delta variant mean for the state’s vaccination effort?

The Delta variant, which accounts for nearly all COVID-19 circulating in Mississippi currently, is believed to be about 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant and up to twice as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19.

The good news is that the COVID-19 vaccines are nearly as effective against the Delta variant as the original strain, greatly minimizing the chance of infection and nearly eliminating the risks of developing a serious illness. Studies suggest, however, that being fully vaccinated is the only adequate protection against the Delta variant, as a single shot of either of the two-dose mRNA vaccines provides only weak protection against infection. The protection the body develops on its own after a COVID-19 infection is also inadequate at preventing a Delta reinfection.

Am I going to need a third booster shot?

Most people should not expect to need a third vaccine dose anytime soon. Pfizer recently announced that it will seek emergency FDA authorization for a third booster shot that better protects against the Delta variant. After that announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA issued a rare joint statement emphasizing that fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot at this time.

The situation is different for a rare subgroup of immunocompromised people, who may need a third dose to generate the antibody levels most patients see after two doses.

Mississippi’s State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, is already recommending that immunocompromised Mississippians get tested to check their antibody levels after getting vaccinated, and ask their doctors about getting a third dose if their immune system did not respond strongly to the first two doses. 

State Epidemiologist Paul Byers added that the decision to receive a third dose right now will be on an individual basis and based on the physician/patient relationship.

 “As far as an overall booster recommendation for a specific group, or for the total population, I think we are still not at that point yet,” Byers said. “That’s not a guarantee that we won’t be at a booster point down the road, but I think that the vaccines that we have right now are still showing effective long-term immunity.”

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Editor’s note: We are working hard to get answers about the COVID-19 vaccine process in Mississippi. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please email us at tips@mississippitoday.org and we’ll do our best to get them answered quickly.


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