‘We don’t want barriers:’ As thousands travel into Miss. for vaccine, MSDH says ID checks aren’t the answer

Data shows one in 50 people who got a vaccination dose in Mississippi came from another state
Updated: Feb. 8, 2021 at 9:06 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than 6,700 people from out of state have ventured to Mississippi to get vaccinated, numbers that will likely increase because neither the state department of health nor state officials are implementing measures to prevent it from happening.

The number of out-of-state vaccinations, revealed by the Mississippi State Department of Health during a Monday news conference, represents two percent of all doses given by the state’s health care professionals thus far.

“They don’t ask, you know, what state are you from. They just want to know, ‘how far did you come?’” said Glenda Foster, a 66-year-old Louisiana resident dealing with congestive heart failure. “And I told them ‘Baton Rouge.’ And they said, ‘that’s a good ride.’”

Foster said she came to Mississippi to get the vaccine because she wouldn’t have qualified in Louisiana, even though she’s considered high-risk.

Foster is one of 6,777 people who came into the Magnolia State to get a dose.

Data shows 1 in 50 people who got a vaccination dose in Mississippi is from another state.

During Monday’s presser, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said he doesn’t think it’s a severe problem.

“It’s certainly it is an issue that we were aware of, and we’ll try to make sure people are aware of it. I think the magnitude of the problem is probably not really severe,” Dobbs said. “We don’t want barriers. Right now we’re fighting barriers. We don’t want to create barriers.”

One of those barriers, Dobbs said, would be checking someone’s identification to verify their residence.

Dobbs said those who live in Mississippi or work here and live in another state qualify as long as they meet the other age and health condition requirements.

However, it’s not clear how many of those 6,777 -- including Foster -- actually work in Mississippi.

Foster’s story was part of a larger investigation by WAFB that included two others who said they came to the Magnolia State to get vaccinated because they weren’t eligible in Louisiana either.

Dobbs said they rely on honesty for the appointment process, not verification.

“There is a step in the process where we have to depend upon people’s ethical behavior. And it’s it’s obviously unethical to be misleading and lie on your enrollment,” Dobbs said. “But we don’t want to have someone who’s older and doesn’t have a driver’s license having an impediment to getting a vaccine because they don’t have a driver’s license, or they don’t have ID.”

The state’s appointment process also relies on the honor system to determine whether those who say they’re high-risk actually are.

Neither MSDH nor any drive-through clinics require medical documentation to prove those getting the vaccine have those health problems.

“We’ll continue to monitor it. And we’ll try to intervene in a way that makes sense. But we also can’t raise unnecessary barriers going forward,” Dobbs said.

The state health officer also told reporters that he had heard confirmed reports of Mississippians around the Gulf Coast also crossing into Louisiana -- specifically Slidell and New Orleans -- to get vaccinated, too.

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