JACKSON, Miss, (AP) — Mississippi is receiving about $29.7 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support coronavirus vaccination efforts.

The award is part of $3 billion in coronavirus relief funding approved by Congress to bolster vaccinations, particularly among minority populations.

“We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said Tuesday. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic."

About 75% of the total funding must focus on specific initiatives intended to increase vaccine access and acceptance among racial and ethnic minority communities. At least 60% must go to support local health departments, community-based organizations and community health centers.

Funds can be used to train trusted community members to conduct door-to-door outreach to raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines and help individuals sign up for appointments, according to the CDC. Money can also be used to hire community health workers who perform culturally competent bilingual health outreach.

The state of Mississippi has now administered 1.34 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to residents, according to the state Health Department.

As of Tuesday morning, 822,862 people have received at least one vaccine dose, and 553,560 more are fully vaccinated.

Everyone over the age of 16 in the state is eligible to receive the vaccine. People can be vaccinated at state-run drive-thru sites as well as at community health centers, at some pharmacies and private health care providers.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said the data shows vaccinations are working. Four months ago, hospitalizations reached a record high, surpassing 1,150 people in the hospital with coronavirus on one day. On Tuesday, 163 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Mississippi.

“You all have heard me say that when the vaccines first became available ... we did see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,” Reeves said Tuesday. “That light is getting brighter and brighter and the tunnel is getting shorter and shorter.”

Reeves said there is high demand for the vaccine at state-run drive-thru sites in metropolitan areas like Jackson, where Doses are going quickly.

The governor and Mississippi's State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said one challenge in rural areas has been that the vaccine is being shipped in large packages. The Moderna vaccine comes 15 shots to a bottle, and it needs to be used within the course of several hours, Dobbs said.

“If you’re in New York City, and you’re sending a package to one of the large pharmacies in downtown Manhattan, there are literally millions and millions of people within walking distance most likely of that particular pharmacy," Reeves said. "Well, if you’re in rural Itta Bena, Mississippi, that’s just not the case."

Reeves said Mississippi officials have requested that the federal government send the vaccines in smaller packaging so it's not going to waste.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said Tuesday that Mississippi, with approximately 3 million population, has reported at least 306,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.

People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.


Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.