MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Vaccination numbers in Mississippi are improving, but the number of African Americans getting vaccinated is not.
As of Thursday a total of 85,829 Mississippians have been vaccinated, 77,223 have received the first dose and 8,606 have received the second dose.
When breaking down that number by race, only 15% of vaccinations have been Black people while 63% are white.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the Mississippi State Department of Health says 15% is very low.
“This is actually worse than it was a couple of weeks ago, so this is a huge challenge,” said Dobbs. “We are going to try to make sure we open more locations in areas where there is need.”
Dobbs said they will open drive-thru vaccination sites in Hinds, Warren, Scott and Alcorn Counties along with others.
“But that’s not enough because we have a lot of outlying areas where people don’t have access to the drive thru and they can’t drive, and that’s one of the things we’re struggling with now is that we equitably distribute the vaccine under this new paradigm,” Dobbs said.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams says vaccine disparities are due to a long history of distrust, and in order to more forward those reasons need to be acknowledged.
“We have tools to end this pandemic, but a vaccine doesn’t matter, the vaccination is what matters,” said Adams. “So step one is acknowledgement, but step two is addressing those concerns in a meaningful way.”
He also says faith leaders can play a critical role.
“I’d rather have your pastor tell you to go out and get your blood pressure checked than your doctor. Why? Because a lot of people particularly in communities of color and in the South are going to be more likely to do something because their pastor tells them to do something than because their doctor tells them to do it,” Adams said.