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White House Vaccination Coordinator visits Jackson to talk with public health leaders

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:59 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The White House Vaccination Coordinator spent Tuesday in the Capital City talking with public health officials.

Dr. Bechara Choucair said the federal government has set up “surge response teams” in over 16 states – including Mississippi – to help respond to rising cases.

Choucair met with state health department leaders, family physicians, pediatricians and more to learn about what practices are making a difference in getting more Mississippians vaccinated.

He said states like Mississippi that have low vaccination rates and rising cases have to continue putting more shots in arms to put this pandemic behind us.

A major topic of discussion during his time in Jackson was how rising COVID-19 cases are overwhelming the state’s hospitals. In the last 5 days, the Mississippi Department of Health recorded more than 15,000 cases.

“You have a variant that’s much more contagious than prior variants [and] much, much more contagious than the original virus. You have communities with low vaccination rates,” he said. “You bring these two things together, and you create a recipe for a spike.”

He said the federal government plans to continue working with the state to bring an end to this surge.

“We have teams supporting staffing, hospitals, and we have teams supporting monoclonal antibodies across the state,” Dr. Choucair said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to support Mississippi.”

Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweeted Tuesday that vaccinations across the state ARE on the rise, but there’s still a long way to go.

Choucair said a major concern that’s keeping many from getting vaccinated is misinformation, and he said we all have a role to play in combatting it.

“Each one of us have to make sure that before we forward information or spread information, make sure that the source is reputable,” he said. “Doctors and nurses have a big role to play to make sure that we’re putting facts out to the community.”

Based on surveys that his team has conducted, three out of ten people who are vaccine-hesitant said they were waiting on full FDA approval. He said now is the time for them to get the shot.

“The FDA did a fantastic job and literally going through hundreds of thousands of pages of data, preclinical data, clinical data, looking at manufacturing, information, visiting manufacturing sites,” he said. “It’s a very complex process, and the FDA is the gold standard when it comes to safety and efficacy.”

The latest health department data shows nearly 1.2 million Mississippians are fully vaccinated so far. More than 300,000 doses were administered over the last 4 weeks.

Additionally, 38 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated compared to the national average of 52 percent. No county in the state has more than half of its population fully vaccinated.

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