State health officials work to tamp down anxiety over vaccine supply

State health officials work to tamp down anxiety over vaccine supply
(Source: Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State health leaders want to “dial down people’s anxiety” when it comes to scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) held its weekly question and answer Friday, where State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said he hoped to address anxieties related to scheduling vaccination appointments.

“We are doing a fabulous job of getting the vaccine to us in the people who need it,” he said. “We gave more than 50,000 vaccines last week and we’ve given 30,000 this week. When we’re getting them in, we’re giving them.”

The state has recently ramped up efforts to vaccinate residents. However, Dobbs said there are still challenges.

Part of the problem stems from the limited supply of doses compared to the demand for them.

“We do not have much vaccine to share. We got about 37,000 doses this week. We got less than we thought we would. Thirty thousand was going to the drive-through clinics.

“About 5,000 or 6,000 (we shared) with doctors around the whole state. That’s about 75 doses per county,” he said. “I literally spend hours a day responding to clinics (that) want vaccines.”

Meanwhile, the state has about 1.3 million people who are eligible to receive the vaccination. Those individuals include people who are 65 or older or those 16 to 64 who have underlying health conditions that make them at higher risk of dying from the virus.

Healthcare workers who come in contact with patients also can receive the shots, as can individuals and employees at long-term care facilities.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said some anxiety issues also stem from people worried that the second shot would not be available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting the second dose between three weeks and a month after receiving the first.

Byers said that new data shows individuals don’t have to follow that timeline exactly for the vaccines to still be effective.

“If you’ve got a patient after the first dose and they’ve gone back on to schedule a second dose and no second dose is available, it’s OK,” Byers said. “There (are) going to be second-dose appointments available. It may not be immediately available, but it’s alright. It will be there.”

To help ease tensions, Byers urged doctors to not make appointments in anticipation of receiving vaccines, but rather based on doses on-hand.

“We can’t promise a steady stream,” he said. “What occurs then is appointments have to be canceled.”

Through January 22, the state had vaccinated nearly 166,000 people. Of those, 150,786 had received the first dose, while 15,089 had received the second, numbers from the Mississippi State Department of Health show.

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