Mississippi saw its highest number of COVID-19 vaccinations in the past week, with more than 17,000 people getting shots, but data released Friday shows that fewer Black people are receiving the vaccine compared to whites.
The total number of people who have had shots in the state was up to 41,541, including 1,029 people who have received their second and final dose.
Distribution is well underway. A federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies that administer the vaccine to long-term care facilities has provided 78,000 doses.
Another 136,600 have been distributed to Mississippi health care providers, including hospitals, private clinics and the Mississippi State Department of Health’s drive-thru clinics.
White people are getting vaccinated at a much higher rate than Black people and other minorities.
Whites have received 27,937 (65%) of vaccinations in the state. Black residents only account for 7,783 (18%) of vaccinations so far. Mississippi’s population is 59% white and 38% Black.
Vaccinations are currently open to health care workers, long-term care facility residents and residents over the age of 75.
“As more vaccine arrives over the coming weeks, vaccinations will be expanded to other groups such as older adults, essential workers, and those with chronic diseases which raise their risk of serious illness from COVID-19,” according to the department of health.
The next group of people who will be eligible for vaccinations are residents 65 and older, first responders, teachers, corrections workers and people who work in congregate group settings, such as homeless shelters and group homes.
The largest group of vaccinated people by age are 50- to 64-year olds, at 13,630. The second largest age group is 25- to 39-year-olds, at 11,443. The third largest is 40- to 49-year olds, at 8,953. The state had given 3,449 vaccines to residents aged 65 to 74, while 1,935 people over the age of 75 got the vaccine and 1,422 people between 16 and 24 received it.
Pike County has had 254 people to get the vaccine, while Amite County has had 53, Franklin County 66, Lawrence County 68, Lincoln County 288, Walthall County 48 and Wilkinson County 56.
State health officials said 17,335 people received the vaccine this past week, while 9,389 received it the week of Dec. 27 through Jan. 2, 8,862 received it through Dec. 20-26 and 4,334 received it during the first week of vaccinations, Dec. 13-19.
Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday afternoon that the state is working to increase its vaccinations and staffing at its call centers, which have been overwhelmed by people trying to schedule appointments for the vaccine, with some residents describing wait times of about two hours.
“Vaccines are rolling out across the US. That’s great news. The bad news: It’s not going nearly fast enough, at least here,” Reeves said. “I said that on Monday, and I said we were working on plans to eliminate roadblocks.”
Reeves said he recently contacted people working in nursing homes to get feedback on vaccination plans for that segment of the population.
“At every one of their facilities they had dates scheduled for vaccinations,” he said. “They complimented the professionalism and believe 100% of first doses will be done by the end of the month.”
Reeves said he’s concerned that about 30,000 doses given to hospitals haven’t been administered and he’s trying to find out why.
“It’s hard to say whether that’s a delay in actually delivering the vaccine on their end, or a reporting error. I want more information and accountability there. That’s coming,” he said.
Reeves praised the efforts of medical staff working at the state’s 18 drive-thru vaccination clinics, including the one at the Pike County Health Department, and said he wants to double the number of vaccination sites, the number of days for vaccinations and the number of appointments at each site per day.
“That should make our max possible number of appointments go from 8,000 to 30,000 over the coming days,” he said.
Reeves also addressed problems with signing up for the vaccine, which is done online or through a phone hotline.
“Elderly Mississippians most vulnerable to the virus can’t rely on apps and social media,” he said. “We’re increasing call center capacity as we speak, so you can speak with a real person and get accurate information.”
People who are eligible for vaccinations may schedule an appointment for one at the a state drive-thru site by visiting covidvaccine.umc.edu or by calling (877) 978-6453. Officials say scheduling an appointment online has been much easier than trying to call.