Health workers prioritized as vaccine arrives in Mississippi

Published 1:08 pm Monday, December 14, 2020

The first shipment of coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Mississippi, and the state’s top health official said he plans to be among the first to receive it Monday in a show of confidence for the newly developed shot.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said last week Mississippi has been approved by the federal government for an initial batch of 25,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech. Officials said in a news release Monday morning that the doses have arrived.

The state health officer has said for weeks that he will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Dobbs and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers will get the shots in a televised briefing at 1 p.m. on Monday, according to the state Department of Health.

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The first doses in Mississippi will go to the state’s hospitals for health care workers, Dobbs said. After hospitals, long-term care facilities will be next in line. The general public may not get the vaccine until the spring or summer of next year.

Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, Mississippi’s shipment was part of 3 million doses being shipped this week throughout the country.

The FDA, considered the world’s strictest medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears safe and strongly protective, and it laid out the data in a daylong public meeting last week for scientists and consumers alike to see.

In winning approval for widespread emergency use, the vaccine was cleared before a final study in nearly 44,000 people is complete. That research is continuing to try to answer additional questions.

Officials say more of the vaccine will arrive each week. Later this week, the FDA will decide whether to green-light the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

The state Health Department reported Monday that Mississippi had 1,648 new confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus as of Sunday evening. The department also reported five new deaths Monday, with all of them happening on Saturday and Sunday. The state has reported nearly 181,100 cases of the virus and 4,204 deaths from it since the start of the pandemic.