Mississippi has distributed more than 120,000 doses of vaccine as the state’s effort continues among health care workers and long-term care facility residents and workers.

Of those, more than 20,000 shots have gone into arms as of Thursday, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. That includes 412 in Alcorn County, 155 in Prentiss County, 89 in Tippah County and 85 in Tishomingo County. All vaccines administered are to be reported to the Mississippi Immunization Information Exchange within 24 hours.

State health leaders are not yet offering any timeline for moving beyond the first two groups, and those to be included in the “1B” and “1C” groups are not yet finalized, according to Jim Craig, senior deputy and director of health protection with MSDH.

In the coming week, the state is launching drive-through vaccinations for health care workers to help accelerate the phase 1A effort.

“These are the folks who are taking care of our sickest folks and our patients, so we want to continue their capacity to stay on the job,” said State Epidemiologist Paul Byers in a Wednesday press conference. “And, by vaccinating them and protecting them, we also prevent transmission from those individuals.”

A broad range of workers are eligible, from EMS personnel to dentists and any administrative and support staff employed in hospital, clinical and other health care settings. The closest drive-through location to the Corinth area will be the Lee County Health Department on Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.; an appointment is required by logging onto covidvaccine.umc.edu.

The drive-through locations have worked well for COVID testing, said Craig, with more than 2,000 people tested most days.

CVS and Walgreens, the partners in the long-term care vaccination effort, will make two to three visits to each site, said Byers. Some have already started receiving vaccinations.

With about 200,000 people in the state who qualify as health care workers and 60,000 long-term care residents and staff, the state needs more than 500,000 doses to cover them all, Byers said.

People should get their second vaccination dose at the same place as the first. The booster comes three weeks later for the Pfizer shot and four weeks later for the Moderna shot.

To make sure people come back for the booster shot, “There’s also going to be a system of reminders that will send a text message out,” said Byers.

The epidemiologist expects the more transmissible COVID variant first reported in the U.K. to continue to pop up in the U.S.

“We have not identified one of these in Mississippi yet,” he said. “Right now, we feel relatively confident that the vaccine is going to cover that strain.”

On Thursday, the state reported 2,756 new positive COVID tests and another 40 deaths, with 38 of those occurring between Dec. 7 and Dec. 30 and another two that occurred between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26, including one that occurred in Tishomingo County, as identified from death certificate reports.

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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