The first people in line to get the new COVID-19 vaccine in Mississippi will be Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Dr. Paul Byers.
Dobbs, head of the Mississippi State Department of Health and the state health officer, and Byers, the state epidemiologist, will hold a news conference to get their shots live as soon as the vaccines arrive in Mississippi. They hope the live event will demonstrate the safety of the vaccine and encourage other Mississippians to also get the shots when they become available.
With approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the Pfizer vaccine expected Thursday, enough vaccine to inoculate 25,000 people could arrive in Mississippi as soon as next week.
The plan for initial vaccine distribution includes vaccinating as many front-line health care workers in hospitals as soon as possible in the first week. In the second week, the doctors hope to begin distribution in long-term care facilities, which house some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. MSDH also hopes to set up drive-thru vaccination sites for health care workers who are not connected to hospitals.
The plans for future vaccinations will depend largely on how many doses Mississippi receives. At this point, that number is “fluid” according to Dobbs. He does not expect vaccinations to be available for healthy people in low-risk categories until the spring or summer of 2021.
Dobbs emphasized that Mississippians will need to take simple precautions to avoid infection for months to come.
“You can’t clean it up unless you turn off the spigot,” he said, meaning that people will need to continue taking precautions that he and other health professionals have been advocating: wear a mask and social distance in public, avoid large gatherings and practice good basic hygiene.