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COVID-19

Dobbs: ‘This is the day we’ve been waiting for’

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A vial of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (photo courtesy MSDH)

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers and Senior Deputy/Director of Health Protection Jim Craig were the first three people in Mississippi to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

“This is the day we’ve been waiting for,” Dobbs said before getting his shot.

In a Zoom news conference, the three top health officials from the Mississippi State Department of Health along with Sonja Fuqua, a nurse with the Community Health Center Association of Mississippi, and Dr. Leandro Mena, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center received the first of two required shots from immunization nurse Lois Moore. The second shot will be administered in 21 days.

Dobbs said the immunizations will not immediately affect the numbers of new cases, deaths or hospitalizations in the state. Those numbers are already in the pipeline for several weeks to come. Where he hopes to see a relatively quick result is in long-term care facilities. Residents of nursing homes, especially, account for about 38% of the state’s deaths, but fewer than 5% of new cases.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was the first person in Mississippi to receive a COVID-19 vaccination Dec. 14. Immunology nurse Lois Moore administered Monday’s historic shots. (photo courtesy MSDH)

The doctors hope to see a reduction in hospitalizations within the next several weeks. Right now, “we’re absolutely full,” Dobbs said, and with more patients sure to come, hospital resources, including nurses and doctors, are stretched to the breaking point.

“It’s ugly right now and about to get uglier,” Dobbs said, adding, “We’re going to have a rough winter.”

The doctor went on to say that it’s OK for people to have concerns about the vaccine but warned Mississippians not to rely on all the stories and information they see on social media. If the information doesn’t have the backing of trusted health care resources such as the MSDH or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “discount it immediately,” Dobbs said. Instead, reach out to a trusted health care professional or information distributed by state and national health care professionals. The MSDH hotline for COVID-19 — 877-978-6453is available seven days a week, from 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers was No. 2 in line for the first COVID-19 vaccination in Mississippi. (photo courtesy MSDH)

MSDH will also make information about the vaccine readily available to the public on its website and through an outreach campaign across the state.

The vaccine will be prioritized as follows:

  • First will be front-line high priority staff in hospitals, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Shots may be administered starting as soon as Tuesday in some facilities.
  • Additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine are expected over the coming weeks, including the possibility of the Moderna vaccine as it receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This will allow expansion of vaccination to all health care workers in any setting, and continued priority on those in long-term care facilities. Drive-thru vaccination sites are being planned in many cities, including Vicksburg.
  • As more vaccine arrives over the coming months, vaccinations will be expanded to other groups such as essential workers and high-risk groups: those with chronic disease, and people over age 65. MSDH will follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. About 40% of Mississippians have conditions that put them into high-risk groups, including high blood pressure and obesity.
  • The schedule of future vaccine arrivals is hard to predict right now, but vaccinations for the general public will probably not be available for several months.

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