JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — More than 100,000 people in Mississippi have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and officials are taking further steps to administer the state's supply of shots more efficiently, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday.
“There is no higher priority and we’re acting accordingly,” Reeves told a news conference. “We’re not where we need to be and we’ve got a long way to go. With 100,000 Mississippians vaccinated, we’ve got hundreds of thousands more to do in the coming weeks and months.”
Inoculation rates in Mississippi have lagged far behind most of the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Reeves insisted Monday that health officials are making changes to speed things along.
The state's website for making vaccine appointments has been upgraded to handle increased traffic, and more people are answering calls from those booking by phone, he said.
Meanwhile, state officials are working to free up more shots for the general population aged 65 and older by getting several thousand doses from nursing homes that received more than they need, Reeves said. If individual providers don't use at least 65% of their weekly dose allocation, their share of the following week's supply will go to others in the state.
Reeves said he's willing to reallocate vaccine supplies “as long as shots get in arms of Mississippians who want it and who need it.”
The pharmacy chains tasked with vaccinating nursing home residents and employees say they're on track to finish by the end of January, the governor said. After that he wants to expand eligibility to first responders and teachers.
Meanwhile, more people will need appointments to receive their second of two vaccine doses. The State Department of Public Health reported Monday that more than 9,700 people in Mississippi have already received both shots.
The number who have received just their first dose as of Monday had topped 105,000.
State health officials reported Monday that Mississippi had 1,457 new confirmed cases of the virus as of Sunday evening. The department reported just three deaths over the weekend. The state has reported nearly 254,000 cases of the virus and 5,524 related deaths since the pandemic began.
Dr. Paul Byers of the Mississippi State Department of Health said there's hope new infections may be starting to decline after a surge over the holidays. But he urged people to continue wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance from others.