JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Almost two-thirds of Mississippi residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, state health officials said Wednesday. Still, overall numbers of inoculations are lagging in recent weeks — a reflection of a lack of buy-in on the vaccine from young people.
“We knew that we were going to have trouble getting younger folks immunized,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who described the effort as a “continued uphill climb.”
More than 132,000 people in Mississippi were vaccinated the week of Feb. 27, according to the state Department of Health. Since then, numbers of vaccinations have dropped each week. Last week, around 74,400 were vaccinated in the state.
Nearly 770,000 Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated, over one-third of whom are over 65, according to the department. Fewer than 200,000 are under the age of 40.
Dobbs said as older residents most vulnerable to the virus are getting vaccinated, the numbers of coronavirus deaths are also falling. The drop gives the illusion that the risk is gone, which makes some people less eager to want the vaccine.
“The urgency is not there,” Dobbs said.
The top health official warned against relaxing coronavirus safety precautions. In the past, when people lessened precautions, cases went back up, he said. He urged people of all ages to get the coronavirus vaccine and continue to wear masks and socially distance.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the state is seeing minimal increases in the number of coronavirus cases. The state's latest seven-day average was about 240 cases a day, an increase from a daily average in the low hundreds earlier this month.
“We’ll have to continue to watch this minimal increase to see if we do see some ongoing sustained increases or not," he said.
The Department of Health on Wednesday released preliminary findings of a statewide vaccine confidence survey conducted from the start of the year through March 1.
The survey was translated in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and taken by more than 11,000 residents. It indicated that 73% of Mississippians intended to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.