JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State health officials say it will likely be sometime in the spring before COVID-19 vaccines will be available to healthy members of the general public.
Before then, the Mississippi State Department of Health is working to develop an educational campaign to dispel rumors about the vaccination.
The news comes as reports show that Mississippians could be among the least likely residents to accept the vaccination based on current vaccination rates.
“We are currently conducting scientific focus groups around the state on this very issue,” said MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot.
Information taken from those focus groups will be used, in turn, to “inform an educational campaign slated to begin early next year,” she said.
“It is normal for folks to say they are not going to take the vaccine,” Sharlot added. “I would expect that.”
On Monday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs announced that the first batch of vaccines would likely be available in the state next week.
The announcement sparked debate on WLBT’s Facebook page, with many commenters saying they weren’t going to take the vaccine.
Some were worried about the long-term effects of the serum, while others were worried that taking the virus means they would be chipped.
Other posters still called the vaccine “poison,” saying they and their families would not take it.
“They can’t vaccinate the cold or flu effectively, but I’m supposed to believe this rushed through vaccine is supposed to work?” one person asked.
Some posters said they would take the vaccine, while others criticized “anti-vaxxers” for helping bring back diseases the U.S. previously had eradicated.
“I will exercise prudence and look at the data, but I trust science and will be taking the vaccine,” wrote one person.
The Commonwealth Fund states that just 37 percent of Mississippi adults have been vaccinated, a sign that could show residents in the state could resist taking the COVID-19 vaccination.
According to its website, the Commonwealth Fund is a nonprofit foundation designed to improve health care through independent research and grant-making.
In recent weeks, though, health officials have been working to address residents’ concerns with the vaccine.
In early December, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs addressed previous comments he made that nanotechnology was used in the vaccine.
He said “no robotics” are used in the serum, but rather “small, little balls of fat” are used to deliver vaccine materials into recipients’ cells.
“Nano just means small,” he said during his December 1 Zoom call. “the vaccine uses nanoparticles.”
Sharlot said the vaccine will include no tracking technology, but residents who receive the vaccine will have their names and information maintained in a database.
“We have a system already in place that keeps up with all vaccinations,” she said. “Names will not be shared with anyone.”
Meanwhile, Dobbs said studies show that the vaccine is “quite safe.”
“There are side effects. A large portion of people reported pain and swelling at the injection site, like other vaccines,” he said. “(But) we’re fortunate to not see long-term side effects.”