Growing number of Louisiana residents traveling to Mississippi to get COVID-19 vaccine

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, February 4, 2021

A growing number of Louisiana residents are driving to Mississippi to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to an article on NOLA.com,  the Mississippi State Department of Health reports that 271 people from Louisiana had received a shot in Mississippi by mid-January. Within two weeks, that number had increased to 820. In total, 5,337 vaccines have been given to people with an address outside of the state.

Although the number is small compared to 235,057 people who have been vaccinated in the state, the word is spreading online. NOLA.com reports that a group called NOLA Vaccine Hunters, started by a Tulane University medical student, has grown to nearly 2,000 members searching for cross-border vaccine appointments and other ways to find shots.

Brad Johnson, 28, said he founded the NOLA Vaccine Hunters site to try and help avoid vaccine spoilage.

“It has kind of been taken over as a bunch of people in Louisiana helping to get people to Mississippi,” said Brad Johnson said. “Which is not its intended purpose.”

The cross-border rush is likely a symptom of vaccine supply constraints and varying state eligibility requirements from state to state.

Brad Johnson, 28, said he founded the NOLA Vaccine Hunters site to try and help avoid vaccine spoilage.

“It has kind of been taken over as a bunch of people in Louisiana helping to get people to Mississippi,” said Brad Johnson said. “Which is not its intended purpose.”

On Thursday, Louisiana officials announced the state was widening access to the coronavirus vaccine to newly include anyone aged 65 to 69, authorizing another quarter-million people for the shots if they can find an available appointment.

Previously, people 70 and older had been allowed to receive the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in Louisiana. That will drop to 65 starting Monday, placing Louisiana in line with more than half the nation’s other states already following that age eligibility recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, those newly eligible will find themselves in the same struggle their older counterparts have grappled with for weeks: trying to find a hospital, clinic or pharmacy with available vaccine doses and book an appointment or get on a list for a future possible immunization slot.

In Mississippi, people over 70 are eligible, but so is anyone over 16 with one of several common health conditions, including diabetes, being overweight or being a smoker.

When asked if Louisiana residents were eligible for vaccines in Mississippi, Liz Sharlot, a spokesperson for Mississippi’s Department of Health, said in an email: “If you live in Mississippi or work in Mississippi, you may be vaccinated. We have no identification requirements.”

Sharlot said that people traveling to Mississippi for the vaccine were not a concern.

Click here for the complete story on NOLA.com.