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Rankin, Madison among counties chosen for vaccine drive-through locations

Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 10:22 AM CST
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MADISON, Miss. (WLBT) - Madison and Rankin County are among the counties chosen for drive-through vaccination sites for healthcare workers.

As COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise, healthcare officials say they’re planning to open 18 drive-through vaccination sites across the state.

To date, the state has distributed approximately 120,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, while about 17,000 individuals have been inoculated.

State health officials discussed plans at a Zoom press conference on Wednesday.

Drive-through sites will be set up to serve doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare workers who could come in contact with the virus.

“We’re targeting specifically any and all healthcare personnel … to include doctors, nurses, dentists and any administrative and support staff that are working in hospital settings (and) clinical settings,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said. “These are the folks who are taking care of our sickest folks and patients, and we want to continue their capacity to stay on the job.

“By vaccinating them and protecting them, we prevent transmission from those individuals.”

The drive-through centers will be set up at existing testing sites, officials say.

“We’re leveraging our existing testing infrastructure that we’ve provided in any county in Mississippi, where people can come and receive free testing if they’re symptomatic or have come into contact with a confirmed case,” said Dr. Jim Craig, director of health protection with the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“The drive-through model has worked really well. We are testing about 2,000 folks almost every day.”

The first centers will open on January 4 in Jackson, Lauderdale, and Leflore counties. Individuals wishing to receive the vaccination must register for an appointment at https://covidvaccine.umc.edu/.

Craig said he’s glad the vaccine is now available for the state’s frontline workers. “It’s been a long battle for those healthcare workers and we’re just glad it’s here for them.”

Byers said a partnership has also been formed with CVS and Walgreen’s pharmacies to allocate doses to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. He said the pharmacies are already reaching out to nursing home staffers to begin the vaccinations.

“All the nursing homes, all 204 in the state, are part of that program, and all will be vaccinated as part of that program,” Byers said.

MSDH officials announced 18 counties have been chosen for drive-through centers to help...
MSDH officials announced 18 counties have been chosen for drive-through centers to help vaccinate healthcare workers against the COVID-19 virus.(Mississippi State Department of Health)

Even with the news, Byers urged residents to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings, especially as New Year’s Eve approaches.

“We are not out of the woods … We are not seeing any signs that things are slowing down. We’re still in the middle of the holidays, so please, for New Year’s, keep it small, keep it nuclear,” he said. “Avoid those social gatherings. Make sure you wear a mask when you are out doing your essential activities. We know that every case can translate into a hospitalization (and potentially) death.”

Byers said more than 3,000 new cases were reported on December 30, including an additional 29 deaths. He said that more than 1,300 patients were in the hospital with COVID, and about a quarter of those patients was in intensive care.

“If you look at folks in the ICU, there are over 300 confirmed cases, and over 200 who are on ventilators, and that includes one child,” he said. “I would encourage everybody to remain vigilant and be serious about limiting transmission. But we do have our foot in the door with the vaccine.”

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