Mississippians aged 65 and over and those with certain pre-existing conditions are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, top health officials announced Tuesday.
Those pre-existing conditions, outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised conditions, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and diabetes. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs advised that those with other serious medical conditions should still consult their physician to check eligibility.
As of Tuesday, the state has administered 62,744 shots of the vaccine over the last four weeks; that total includes about 5,000 Mississippians who have received their first and second doses.
While the pace of vaccinations has skyrocketed — last week the state health department reported about 23,000 doses administered — only four states have lower rates of administered vaccines per capita than Mississippi, according to the CDC.
Dobbs also expressed concern over the racial disparity in people who’ve received doses; so far 16% of vaccinations have gone to Black Mississippians — 64% of recipients are white, and 19% are listed as “Other.”
“We need to do a better job about making sure we address the concerns about the African American community about getting the vaccine and also about making sure there’s access,” Dobbs said at Tuesday’s press conference.
Gov. Tate Reeves, who joined Dobbs at a Tuesday press conference to announce the expansion of vaccine eligibility, expressed concern over the slow rollout of shots in long-term care facilities as well as at hospitals.
Regarding LTCs, Reeves said the federal program’s partners CVS and Walgreens have attributed the issue to a “lack of personnel,” and said that many states are experiencing similar problems with the federal pharmacy partnership.
“We’re clearly disappointed in the progress in the long-term care project,” Dobbs said. He explained the rollout is taking much longer than anticipated, as some facilities aren’t scheduled to receive visits until February. Dobbs added that if CVS and Walgreens can’t reach LTCs “quickly enough,” individual facilities could be removed from the program and the state could directly provide vaccines instead.
Hospitals have received 104,000 doses, Reeves said, but have administered less than half of those so far.
“They’ve been given an allocation, and in some cases not using them, and that has to stop,” Reeves said, adding that further allocations from the federal government will depend on administration rates, and that slow rollouts at hospitals could cost the state doses. “It’s why we’ve largely supplanted them with state-run drive-thru clinics.”
Reeves added that he expects his next announcement around vaccines will be to expand eligibility to emergency first responders, firefighters, police officers and teachers.
On Tuesday, MSDH reported 98 additional COVID-19 related deaths, the most so far in a single day. Mississippi’s seven-day average for new cases reached a new high on Sunday of 2,431.