First lady Jill Biden arrives at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, May 27, 2021, en rote to the vaccine clinic at Metropolitan Community College. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

First Lady Jill Biden will visit COVID-19 vaccination sites in Jackson on Tuesday as part of the Biden Administration’s nationwide tour to reach Americans who haven’t been vaccinated and promote vaccine education.

The visit comes as Mississippi continues to rank last in the nation in the share of its population that has been vaccinated. Only 32% of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated despite significant gains made in recent months in vaccinating the most vulnerable and making vaccine access more equitable.

Mississippi is also the state furthest behind in reaching President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into the arms of 70% of adults by July 4. Just over 36% of Mississippians are currently vaccinated, providing no hope the state will reach even 50% by Independence Day. If vaccination rates don’t improve significantly, the state wouldn’t reach that 70% threshold for well over a year.

No significant improvement is on the horizon as the state’s vaccination rate continues to tank. The 15,073 shots given last week represent a decrease of over 87% from February’s peak.

As the state’s vaccine rate continues to sputter, Gov. Tate Reeves announced last week that the last remnants of COVID-related government policy in Mississippi — the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders — will expire on Aug. 15, more than a year after the orders were first enacted. 

“While a State of Emergency should no longer be necessary after August 15, all Mississippians should remain vigilant, get vaccinated, and follow public health guidance,” Reeves said in a statement.

Even though Mississippi has remained under a state of emergency order due to the pandemic, there have been virtually no safety protocols in effect for months

Reeves also announced that emergency COVID-19 operations with the Mississippi National Guard will end on July 15. The guard’s involvement has been an essential component of the state’s vaccine rollout, assisting the Mississippi State Department of Health with the logistical challenges of operating vaccination sites and putting shots in the arms of thousands of Mississippians.

“The governor’s timeline to lift Mississippi’s State of Emergency declaration on August 15, 2021, ensures our over 1,500 service members complete all necessary out-processing requirements and receive the benefits and entitlements they have earned during their dedicated service to our state,” Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles, the adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, said in a written statement.

The Mississippi Department of Health reported on Friday that 1,071,623 people in Mississippi — about 36% of the state’s population — have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 953,000 people have been fully inoculated since the state began distributing vaccines in December.

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.