Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool)

Mississippi will receive 24,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, days after the federal government authorized use of the third vaccine.

The J&J vaccine only requires a single shot, unlike the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, which require two doses. In addition to being able to rapidly increase the rate at which Americans are fully vaccinated, the J&J vaccine is cheaper to produce and easier to store. It can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for up to three months, 18 times longer than the Pfizer vaccine and three times longer than Moderna’s.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the new vaccine emergency use authorization. Mississippi’s allotment makes up just over half a percent (0.61%) of the 3.9 million doses that will be distributed to states this week. 

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine comes with a lower efficacy rate than the earlier approved COVID-19 vaccines. Documents published by the FDA last Wednesday showed that the new vaccine had an overall efficacy rate of 72% and an 86% efficacy rate against severe forms of COVID-19 in the United States. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have an overall efficacy rate of about 95%.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported on Monday that 407,647 people in Mississippi — about 14% of the state’s population — have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. About 219,000 people have received both doses since the state began distributing vaccines in December.

Thousands of vaccination appointments are currently available on the MSDH website. First responders and employees of K-12 schools, preschools and daycares became eligible for vaccination on Monday.

As vaccine eligibility increases, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue their dramatic decline in Mississippi — an encouraging sign after a brutal winter spike that set new records for both statistics.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 301 new COVID-19 cases of COVID-19 and 44 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday. This brings Mississippi to a total of 295,295 coronavirus cases and 6,724 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

January saw the most coronavirus-related deaths in a single month in Mississippi, with 1,240 confirmed. The state also set new single-day records for new cases: 3,255 cases on Jan. 7, and 98 deaths on Jan. 12.

Additionally, the number of COVID-19 cases, COVID-related hospital admissions and clinic visits for COVID-19 like illnesses in Mississippi have been trending sharply downward in 2021.

Mask mandates are currently in effect in 75 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. State health officials encourage widespread masking and credit the original statewide mandate issued by Gov. Tate Reeves on Aug. 4 with helping cases improve after a sharp summer spike. Reeves ended the statewide mask mandate on Sept. 30, but has since issued orders for the individual counties.

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.