Mississippi governor skeptical federal vaccine plan will work

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that he’s skeptical about a new federal effort to reduce racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Under the plan developed by President Joe Biden’s administration, around 10% of Mississippi’s total weekly vaccine allocation will go to federal pharmacy partners like Walmart, CVS or Walgreens, Reeves said. During a news conference Tuesday, the Republican governor said he wonders how successful the program will be in a rural state like Mississippi.

“While it’s probably true in Washington, D.C. or in New York City that you can walk a block in either direction and run into a Walgreens, or run into a CVS or a Walmart … in Mississippi, there aren’t a lot of Walmarts in Issaquena County, and there aren’t a lot of Walmarts in very rural areas,” Reeves said.

“I’m hopeful that they are correct in their efforts, I will tell you that I am somewhat concerned about those efforts,” he continued.

Mississippi has now given out more than a quarter of a million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to residents, Reeves said. More than 225,000 first doses and around 28,000 second doses have been delivered, according to the State Department of Health.

“We are operating at peak capacity,” Reeves said.

However, racial disparities have persisted throughout Mississippi’s vaccination efforts. As of Tuesday, only 17% of all vaccine doses in Mississippi had gone to Black residents, compared to white residents, who represent 69% of those who have been vaccinated.

Coronavirus inoculations in Mississippi are being done at hospitals, community health centers, private clinics and at 21 state-run drive-thru sites.

The Department of Health said it is working with community leaders in the Black community to encourage residents to get the vaccine.

On Monday, African American faith leaders from across the state received the COVID-19 vaccination at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson. The event was hosted by the Mississippi National Baptist State Convention in conjunction with the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Reeves said state officials are open to trying new methods to bridging the racial divide when it comes to the vaccine. The federal pharmacy program will begin next week, he said. Approximately 6,200 doses will go to 30 locations across the state that have yet to be announced.

Vaccinations in Mississippi are currently available for people 65 and older, health care workers and those who are at least 16 and have health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.

Reeves announced Tuesday morning that there were 30,000 new appointments available to be booked at the state’s drive-thru sites. Within two hours, those appointments had been booked. He said the state is also scheduled to complete around 18,000 second dose appointments this week.

Appointments have been filling up quickly due to high demand. Reeves announced Friday on Twitter that 15,000 new appointments had come free, and they were also all booked within two hours.

People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can try to make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.