The federal government announced on Tuesday that 75% of Americans age 18 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — a celebrated milestone that inspires hope that “normal” is on the horizon and the darkest days of the pandemic are behind us.
But there is no such joy in Mississippi.
Our state reports just 59% of residents 18 and older have received at least one dose. That gives us the 47th lowest rank of any state in the nation — and the lowest of any Southern state. Just 40% of our population is fully vaccinated, which ranks 48th in the nation.
The COVID-19 shots, among the safest and most effective vaccines scientists have ever developed, are working wonders. In Mississippi last week, 99% of new cases were among the unvaccinated; 87% of COVID-related hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated; and 86% of deaths were among the unvaccinated.
Mississippi just experienced its darkest month of the pandemic. During the month of August alone, the virus accounted for one-fifth of the state’s total cases since the pandemic began and killed almost 1,000 of our neighbors.
By mid-August, Mississippi was the COVID capital of the world. At one point later in the month, four Mississippi counties claimed spots in the national top 10 list for highest caseload per capita, including the top spot.
The state’s healthcare system was so overwhelmed that experts warned the entire hospital network was within days of collapsing. To fend off that collapse, the state had to request that the federal government foot the $8 million-per-week bill for 1,100 contract healthcare workers.
As the virus worsened, more Mississippians felt led to get vaccinated. The last week of August, 86,000 Mississippians got inoculated — the most in a single week since mid-April, when the vaccine was first made widely available to most Mississippians.
But by the first week of September, the vaccine numbers had declined once again: just 75,000 Mississippians got the shot. If the history of the pandemic is any indication, this week’s vaccination numbers will be lower than that.
Dobbs has estimated that Mississippi needs around 85% of the population to be fully vaccinated to achieve low and steady transmission rates across the state because the delta variant is so highly contagious.
“Hopefully we’re not going to see the same sort of peak we’ve seen in the coming weeks. We’re starting to see some stabilization in numbers and hospitalizations, but again, time will tell,” Dobbs said. “And the better that we do at both preventing transmission and getting vaccinated is going to help us out of that.”
Mississippi Today reporter Will Stribling contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the age range of Americans and Mississippians who have received the vaccine.