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Mid-South states rank near the bottom of highly vaccinated states, according to CDC

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 7:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Among all 50 states and Washington D.C., Mississippi ranks last in vaccine administration according to the latest data from the CDC. Tennessee and Arkansas are nearby on the list.

The CDC’s latest data shows 26 percent of Mississippians are vaccinated, 30 percent of Arkansans and nearly 31 percent of Tennesseans. Lower uptake is a common theme throughout the southeast, and doctors said the reasons could range from climate, to demographics to politics.

In his latest public press conference Mississippi Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Mississippians need to be shaken from their current complacency.

“I want us all to sit back and realize you’re either likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine or the virus,” Dr. Dobbs said. “Under every circumstance, under every conceivable scenario, you are 1,000 fold if not a million fold better off getting the vaccine.”

According to the Mississippi Department of Health about 885,000 people in the state are fully vaccinated. That’s around 26.5 percent.

Mississippi is number 51 in highest percentage of vaccinations per population. Arkansas is number 49 on the list and Tennessee is at 46.

“It’s not just people say I’m not going to get it I’m against vaccines, I don’t believe the infection is a severe one, sometimes people just haven’t bothered to get it,” Baptist Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld said. “We see this in all kinds of health maintenance, we see it in car maintenance.”

Dr. Threlkeld said he doesn’t know the exact reason why uptake is so low in the South. While he is aware the vaccine has become a political topic which may influence some, he also questions access in state with large rural populations.

“There’s a lot more in the way of rural citizenry here,” Dr Threlkeld said. “The rural situation all by itself has been a challenge in there just isn’t as much vaccine nearby.”

While the whys can be debated, Dr. Threlkeld said his focus is getting his patients and the public to choose the vaccine.

“I don’t know why it’s become a political situation, but it seems to have broken down in that regard,” Dr. Threkeld said.

The Tennessee Department of Health launched a PSA campaign this month to increase knowledge about the vaccine. In a statement a spokesperson for the department said:

“We are aware of the continued hesitancy in our state regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. This is not a unique phenomenon to Tennessee as many southern states are experiencing a continued slowing down of vaccine uptake. Our top priority is to continue to vaccinate those who are willing to receive the vaccine. We have made efforts to make it as convenient as possible with walk-in options at local health departments, pop-up clinics and vaccine events in local communities, and several local health departments offer extended hours. It is a joint responsibility in the health care community and our media partners to educate individuals on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and work to discredit some of the unfounded misinformation that continues to circulate. Our COVID-19 vaccine campaign “Give It A Shot” started earlier this month with ads airing across the state on broadcast, cable an digital media.”

Arkansas Department of Health said it plans to increase education, access AND incentives for the vaccine.

“Arkansas, like many of the southern states, is lagging behind in the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated. We are actively taking steps to educate the people about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines that are available to protect against COVID-19, including where to get vaccinated and that the vaccine is provided at no cost to the recipient. We are also working with health care providers around the state to make sure the vaccine is easily accessible and health care providers are available to assist people with making an informed decision about vaccination. Finally, we are working with state leaders to provide incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

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