JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday that the coronavirus vaccine rollout is not going fast enough in Mississippi. He said officials are working behind the scenes to “eliminate roadblocks” so more people can get vaccinated quickly.
The Republican governor said the state is planning to double the number of sites where people can be vaccinated in the coming days and double the appointment capacity of those sites, as well as the number of days they are open.
“If you want a vaccine, you should have quick, simple access,” Reeves said. “Government logistics should not stand in your way.”
Mississippi set up 18 drive-through sites for vaccinations, which opened for healthcare workers on Monday and individuals 75 and over on Wednesday. Around 7,600 coronavirus vaccinations were administered at drive-thru vaccination sites in the state this week, said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
However, residents said the process has not been as smooth as they would like. Online appointments were filling up quickly; calls to the hotline to make appointments were backed up; some said they were not able to make appointments after waiting or they had to make appointments in counties far from where they live.
Tina Herrington, 76, of Jackson, told The Associated Press there were no appointments available in or near Mississippi's capital city when she went to sign up a few days ago. The only appointment she could get was more than 80 miles away — in Greenwood.
Herrington said she can’t drive an hour and 40 minutes at her age, adding her caretaker will need to give her a ride to the appointment.
“I can’t make it that far on my own,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t understand why I couldn’t get one around here in Jackson sooner. It was going to be weeks and weeks before I could even get it anywhere near Jackson.”
Reeves said the goal is to increase the number of appointments available at drive-thru sites in a week from 8,000 to 30,000.
More than 170 private clinics and community health centers have also signed up to vaccinate patients. Dobbs said the names of those facilities will be posted on the Department of Health's website.
To help ramp up its efforts, Mississippi will receive close to $200 million from the federal government as part of a recently passed pandemic relief package for coronavirus testing and vaccinations.
The state is to receive $171.3 million for testing and $26.8 million for vaccinations, Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said. The relief package was approved by Congress last month.
In a statement Friday, Hyde-Smith said the cash influx will help “control this virus.”
“We all recognize ongoing stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic on our hospitals, health workers, and importantly the lives of all Mississippians," Hyde-Smith said.
The state Health Department reported Friday that Mississippi had 2,175 new confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus as of Thursday evening. The department also reported 40 deaths Friday, with 26 of them happening between Dec. 16 and Thursday. The state has reported nearly 233,665 cases of the virus and 5,101 deaths from it since the start of the pandemic.
People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID call center at 1-877-978-6453.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.