MSDH uses local health centers to help underserved communities with COVID-19 vaccines

MSDH COVID-19 vaccines
MSDH COVID-19 vaccines(Andres Fuentes)
Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 9:21 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Most of the more than 900,000 COVID-19 vaccines were administered through the 24 Mississippi State Department of Health sites or other providers.

With Gov. Tate Reeves announcing all residents 16 years and older now are eligible for the shot, health care officials are bracing for more appointments to be scheduled.

However, the focus will still be on the 65+ crowd, rather than younger, less at-risk people.

“These are the age groups where the majority of the severe illness and the deaths occur,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

Despite the focus staying with those most at risk, the department is still looking at ways to help all Mississippians.

“Addressing every possible avenue to make sure people have access to vaccine is going to be the way that we go forward,” Dobbs said.

Officials said they are looking past mass vaccination sites and toward smaller, more targeted centers for the state’s minority community and rural areas.

To help roll out shots to underserved parts of Mississippi, the department is joining regional and local organizations.

The department wants to partner with regional and local community health centers to help roll out shots to underserved parts of the state.

“We’re going to be able to work with specific groups, targeted groups, to go into communities and provide them in that community,” said Dr. Victor Sutton, director of the Office of Preventative Health and Health Equity.

Sites will be easily set up in clinics, neighborhood centers, events and religious institutions.

“Black churches are a wonderful resource to get to the community,” Jackson County NAACP member Evelyn Stephens said.

Six organizations will start the mobile unit program including, Coastal Family Health Center in South Mississippi.

However, officials hope to add more partners soon and encourage anyone interested in hosting a COVID-19 vaccine site to call the Mississippi COVID-19 Hotline (877) 978-6453 and press 2.

Organizers said they understand the importance of making health care accessible and approachable.

“We are able to work with community groups and other organizations that may be able to break down barriers,” Sutton said.

While state health officials stay committed to rolling out vaccines in their current fashion, they say soon, getting doses will be as easy as going to your primary doctor.

“Pretty soon, people are not going to have to go through a drive-through site. They are going to be able to get it through their traditional mechanisms and that’s going to be a good thing,” Dobbs said.

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