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One million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced during a Monday press conference.
While that figure signals the progress that has been made in vaccination efforts across Mississippi, the state faces hurdles to radically increasing the vaccinated population.
“We’re not yet out of this fight. In fact, we know that the next million shots are going to be harder to get than the last million,” Reeves said.
Reeves attributed the difficulties in administering shots to vaccine hesitancy in the state. The demand for vaccines was much higher than the state’s supply when its rollout began, but the Mississippi State Department of Health is already seeing the shift to demand being equal to or even lower than supply.
Mississippi is lagging behind most other states in administering the shots it’s received. — And many of the states doing better than Mississippi have much stricter eligibility requirements for vaccination. Mississippi ranks 47th in the percentage of allotted doses given.
Recent polling has shown that Mississippians are generally more open to getting a COVID-19 vaccine than they were in early January, but it’s unclear how significantly this shift has impacted demand for vaccines.
To even maintain the current rate at which shots are being administered in Mississippi, Reeves said the state has to “get creative” in how it distributes the vaccine. That’s why Mississippi was the second state to make all residents 16 and older eligible for vaccination. Last week, Mississippi also became one of the first states to begin mass vaccinating inmates in state prisons.
“It’s another area in which Mississippi is leading,” Reeves said.
Though the state officially reached the milestone of administering one million shots on Monday, the actual number of doses given could be as much as 10% higher, according to Reeves.
That disconnect is due to delays between when certain private healthcare providers administer shots and when they report that through the system the state uses to report to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All private providers that are receiving vaccine allotments sign an agreement to log all the doses they’ve given into the system within 24 hours of administering them, but some haven’t followed through.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said this information gap has expanded as more local providers have been brought in to distribution efforts because data entry is more of a hassle for them. A large hospital might have software that transfers their vaccination data to the state system automatically, while smaller operations have to do it manually.
“They think it’s important to get the shots in and the documentation is just boring bureaucratic paperwork, but it’s important,” Dobbs said.
Streamlining the reporting process isn’t just important because it affects the numbers being reported by the state. It also plays a factor in how quickly a provider will receive more vaccine shipments or whether they will at all.
In Mississippi, 646,945 people — 22% of the state’s population — have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 364,000 people have been fully inoculated since the state began distributing vaccines in December.