JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Twenty community health centers in Mississippi will receive around $77.5 million in April to support COVID-19 vaccination and other services for vulnerable populations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
Community health centers receive federal funding to serve communities designated as medically underserved areas, with fees adjusted based on ability to pay. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has said that they have been integral in getting the state's Black residents vaccinated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health centers serve one in five people living in rural communities, and one in 11 people nationwide, according to data provided by the U.S. government. More than 91% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and nearly 63% are racial or ethnic minorities.
In addition to coronavirus vaccinations and testing, health centers will be able to use the federal funds to deliver preventive and primary health care services to those at higher risk for the virus and for infrastructure upgrades.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Americans should have the security of knowing they have access to quality, affordable health care, “especially as we face a pandemic that has exposed the disparities facing rural, minority, and lower-income communities.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health said Thursday that Mississippi, with approximately 3 million population, has reported 303,942 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening.
At least 720,600 people in Mississippi have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Around 417,600 have been fully vaccinated, according to data provided by the state health department.
Everyone over the age of 16 in the state is eligible to receive the vaccine. Vaccinations are available at the state's drive-thru sites, as well as at community health centers, at some pharmacies and private healthcare providers.
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 try to 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.
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.