The number of COVID-19 vaccines being administered in Mississippi has decreased 35% over the last two weeks, marking a growing rift between the state’s supply of vaccines and the population’s demand for them. 

A declining vaccination rate does not bode well for Mississippi improving its national standing in vaccine rollout. The state continues to rank last in the nation for the share of its population that has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. As of Monday morning, 30% of Mississippians had received at least one dose, much lower than the United States total of 42%.

As of Monday morning, more than 67,000 vaccination appointments were available in Mississippi through the MSDH vaccine scheduler

It is still unclear how the temporary pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will affect Mississippi’s already high rate of vaccine hesitancy. Federal health agencies ended the pause on Friday after an extensive safety review by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. 

Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner said in a press release: “We have concluded that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older. We are confident that this vaccine continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness and quality. We recommend people with questions about which vaccine is right for them have those discussions with their health care provider.”

The pause recommendation was issued out of an abundance of caution after six people developed a rare blood clot, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The review by health agencies found that 15 of the nearly 8 million people that have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States developed the rare blood clot.

A new warning will now be placed on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine label, and healthcare providers administering the shot have been instructed to inform patients of the associated risks.

After the pause recommendation was issued on April 13, The Mississippi State Department of Health instructed vaccine providers to refrain from using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. MSDH has not yet updated these instructions, and did not respond to questions on if the agency planned to do so.

Less than 5% of Mississippians who have received a COVID-19 vaccine received Johnson & Johnson, so the pause in its use had little impact on the state’s overall vaccine supply-chain. Still, the effects of its absence will likely be more pronounced in rural areas, where the shot’s more lax storage requirements and singular dose requirement have helped ease logistical issues in vaccine distribution. 

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.