State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs discusses distribution of COVID-19 vaccines during a January press conference at the Woolfolk Building in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

As Mississippi continues to rank last in the nation in the share of its population that has been vaccinated, the message from the state’s top health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs is clear: get vaccinated or get COVID-19.

“I want us all to really sit back and realize that you’re likely either to get the COVID vaccine, or the COVID virus,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, said during a Thursday press conference. “And under every circumstance, under every conceivable scenario, you are a thousandfold if not a millionfold better off getting the vaccine than contracting COVID. So please take this opportunity if you’re eligible to go ahead and get yourself or your kids vaccinated.”

The state’s vaccination rate has dropped 65% from its peak in late February. Now nationally and locally, groups are looking for new ways to motivate more people to get vaccinated. On Thursday, the Center for Disease Control released new recommendations saying that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may stop wearing masks and maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of size. Part of the motivation behind the move by the CDC is to tantalize the unvaccinated with the opportunity to return to more pre-pandemic activities.

Miracle Temple Church of Deliverance in Jackson is going as far as to offer $35 gas cards to anyone who comes and gets a shot during their vaccination event on Saturday.

Thousands of vaccination appointments are currently available on the MSDH vaccine scheduler, and parents can now schedule appointments for their children ages 12-15. 

MSDH reported on Friday that 985,219 people in Mississippi — about 33% of the state’s population — have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 855,000 people have been fully inoculated since the state began distributing vaccines in December.

MAP: Where Mississippians can get the COVID-19 vaccine

Follow our full vaccine coverage, including data on the vaccination progress in Mississippi.

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.