JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On Tuesday, state leaders gave an update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said a new federal partnership means that vaccinations will soon be available at about 30 Walmart pharmacies across the state.
Dobbs didn’t say what Walmart stores were included in the partnership, but said more than 6,000 doses are likely to be allocated to the stores by late next week.
Meanwhile, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is planning to open a walk-up vaccination clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall. Dobbs would not say when it would open, except to stay “stay tuned.”
As for Walmart, the retail juggernaut is receiving vaccines as part of a new partnership with the federal government. Dobbs said those pharmacies should be able to offer vaccines by February 12.
Gov. Tate Reeves said the Biden White House entered the program, in part, to help expand the vaccine in minority and other under-represented communities.
The governor participated in a conference call with White House staffers on Tuesday, where he found out more details about the program.
Officials say about 10 percent of the state’s weekly allocation of doses next week will go to those pharmacies, which were picked by the federal government.
Reeves is hopeful the program will work but said he has his concerns.
“While it’s probably true in Washington, D.C., that you can walk a block in either direction and run into a CVS or Walgreens, or Walmart … There aren’t a lot of Walmarts in Issaquena County,” he said.
Meanwhile, the governor touted some major achievements and continued struggles with the state’s vaccine roll out.
He was pleased with the decrease in overall daily cases, but said the current mask mandate will likely be extended. The executive order is expected to expire on February 3.
“We will extend the mask mandate tomorrow. It will be a simple extension beyond tomorrow’s deadline, probably through the month of February,” he said. “What we are seeing in total number of cases, is we have had less than 4,000 cases over the last four days.
“Had that been last March, we would have been blown away at how big the number is. But when we compare it to the entire month of December and virtually the entire month of January, it’s a fairly significant decline.”
Meanwhile, the state has achieved another milestone in its effort to vaccinate residents.
“We have, as of yesterday, now surpassed a quarter of a million vaccines in the state,” Reeves said. “We are operating at peak capacity and are working to get even more vaccines into our state, so we can get it out to our people.”
Reeves discussed challenges and successes the state has faced on the COVID-19 front, including the need to increase operations at the state’s drive-through vaccination clinics.
“The state-run sites have an even more difficult logistical challenge this week, when compared to last week, because now we’re not only providing first doses, we’re providing second doses,” he said.
“Where we had 30,000 first-dose vaccines for the week of 1/18, as we move into this week, we have 30,000 first dose and approximately 18,000 to 19,000 second-dose appointments.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the fact that demand continues to outpace supply. On Tuesday morning, Reeves announced via Twitter that 30,000 vaccine appointments were available. By noon, those appointments had been taken.
“The issue we have now is we simply have a scenario in which demand far exceeds supply,” he said. “We have a lot more Mississippians who want to take the vaccine than we have shots available on a weekly basis.”
The state has 21 drive-through vaccination sites, including 15 or so that are opened daily.
Currently, individuals 65 and older are eligible for the shots, as are individuals 16 to 64 who have underlying health conditions that would make them more susceptible to the virus.