At least 32 states have resumed the use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine, but Mississippi is not one of them. (Sipa via AP Images)

Of the 2,400 Mississippians who died of COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and July 22 of this year, only 37 were fully vaccinated, according to data obtained from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

That means 98.4% of the people who died from COVID-19 during that period were unvaccinated, while 1.6% were vaccinated people who experienced breakthrough infections. All 37 of the breakthrough deaths were from high-risk patients aged 65 or older. 

MSDH reported 4,991 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths on Monday, further documenting the hold the virus’ Delta variant has on the state.

As scientists continue to collect data on the newest variant that is spreading rapidly, medical experts continue to reiterate that vaccination remains the best protection against contracting the Delta variant. The nation’s leading medical researchers agree that vaccines are nearly as effective against the Delta variant as the original strain, greatly minimizing the chance of infection and nearly eliminating the risks of developing a serious illness.

Studies suggest, however, that being fully vaccinated is the only adequate protection against the Delta variant, as a single shot of either of the two-dose mRNA vaccines provides only weak protection against infection.

With the Delta variant infecting minors at higher rates than the original strain of COVID-19, and those under 12 still ineligible for vaccination, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has said that Mississippians need to create a “protective cocoon” of vaccinated people around children to protect them from the virus and keep them in school. 

“This is going to take all of society trying to protect our kids,” Dobbs said. “Because if we don’t, I do think we’re going to have a lot more kids getting COVID. Most kids will get over just fine, but some are going to have a lot more trouble.”

READ MORE: Teachers union calls on Reeves to mandate masks in schools

The threat posed by the Delta variant does appear to be motivating an uptick in vaccinations; over the past two weeks, Mississippi has seen a 56% increase in vaccinations.

Though Mississippi is no longer last in the nation for the share of its population that has been vaccinated, it still trails 48 other states. Only 34% of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 hospitalization over timeHospitalization statistics averaged on a rolling 7-day basis. Total hospitalized includes suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases.Source: MSDH

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.