JACKSON — “Felt like a butterfly,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs said after the needle delivering the first coronavirus vaccine in Mississippi left his arm Monday afternoon.

To demonstrate their faith that it is safe and effective, the state health officer and other public health officials took the shot during a press conference after the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine reached the state. Several undisclosed medical centers received doses on Monday, with others to follow over the next few days as the state begins to vaccinate front-line health care workers, followed by residents and workers at longterm care centers.

“We’re extremely excited to have a vaccine that is not only extremely effective, based on the clinical studies, but also seems to have a very favorable side effect profile,” said Dobbs.

While there is enthusiasm on one hand, there is worry on the other, with hospitals packed throughout the state and the vaccine needing time to begin to tamp down the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s ugly right now, and it’s about to get a whole lot uglier,” said Dobbs. “We see a real avalanche of folks hitting the health care system soon, so I just want everybody to understand that we are going to have a rough winter.”

Hospitals, said Dobbs, are looking for elsewhere to send patients, and the state is facing the problem of, “What do you do when there is nowhere else?”

“What we’ve seen over the past week,” he said, “is we’ve seen critically ill folks in rural areas who have not had access to critical care health services. This is the tip of the thing that we’ve been really afraid of this whole time.”

As for the vaccine, the Mississippi State Department of Health will plan a public relations campaign to promote it.

State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said around 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive next week. The first batch of Pfizer doses numbers 25,000. There should be enough to cover everyone – workers and residents – in longterm care facilities, he said.

For those who are concerned about whether to take the vaccine, “I would say get information from reputable sources,” said Dobbs. “If it comes from Facebook or social media, discount it immediately. And talk to your doctor. I think those are the best things you can do.”

He encourages those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity to be at the front of the line when the vaccine becomes available to the general public.

He expects demand to exceed supply.

“If you have an opportunity, I’d recommend you go ahead and get it while you can,” said Dobbs, “because if you don’t get it when you can, there’s no telling when the second opportunity is gonna show up.”

The doctor said the vaccine does not cause infertility, one of the items with “no basis in fact” that is circulating regarding the shot.

It does potentially cause a sore arm, like other vaccinations, and the potential for some achiness and fatigue the following day.

As of Monday afternoon, Magnolia Regional Health Center reported 21 patients hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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