The Mississippi State Health Department announced Wednesday that it would expand its vaccination infrastructure with 18 drive-thru locations across the state.

Starting next week, 18 locations across the state will offer drive-thru vaccinations to health care workers, including one in DeSoto County. In the county, the vaccination will take place on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, and other locations will be vaccinating throughout the week.

“We do have a foot in the door with vaccines,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during the announcement. 

Those getting vaccinated will have to set up an appointment at www.Covidvaccine.umc.edu.

There will be 210 appointments available on each day, meaning 420 appointments will be available in the county next week. Each drive-thru location will get the same number of doses.

All health care workers are eligible, including emergency medical service personnel, nurses and nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, dentists, dental hygienists and assistants, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual health care staff, dietary and food services staff, environmental services staff and administrative staff.

The infrastructure used for drive-thru testing — which is now testing about 2,000 Mississippians each day — is being used as a model for the drive-thru vaccination plan, though there will be far fewer locations for vaccinations.

Byers said that about 90% of the doses allotted to the state have been distributed — about 120,000 doses in total. About 17,000 of those doses have already been given to individuals in phase 1a of the plan to vaccinate the state: health care workers and those living or working in long-term care facilities (LTCFs).

Vaccinations at LTCFs are now underway, in partnership with CVS and Walgreens. Though this is now in its early stages, every facility in the state is part of the program to get the vaccine.

This comes at a time when the spread and impact of COVID-19 is severe.

Over 14,500 people in DeSoto County have reported getting infected with the virus, and 137 residents have died. In Mississippi, over 213,000 have been infected and over 4,700 have died from the virus.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state is at an all-time high, leading to sustained stress on the health care system. Relatively few hospital beds have been open in DeSoto County for several weeks.

“It is still bad out there right now, and we haven't even made it through the holidays yet,” Byers said. “We still need folks to wear a mask. We still need you to stay six feet away.”

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