Highest-risk Mississippians could see COVID vaccine next month

November 13th, 2020     General News

Multiple news sources are reporting that the recently-announced Pfizer coronavirus vaccine could be available on a limited basis in Mississippi as soon as next month.

This came through a briefing by state health officer Dr. Thomas Dodds and state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers this past week.

Byers had requested and has been tentatively approved to receive an initial round of 183,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and partner BioNTech.

The shipment will require federal approval for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration but trials so far indicate the vaccine may be 90 percent effective.

Byers also cautioned that because supplies will be limited the vaccine will go to those with the highest risk first.

“We need to make we get them protected,” Byers said of the state’s health care workers. “Those are the individuals who are taking care of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital, in the clinical setting. That’s going to be the first push.”

After the highest risk residents would come those vulnerable due to health issues or who are over age 65.

Making the vaccine available to the general public will take longer, probably months, and longer still to have vaccine for children. That’s because no clinical trials are underway studying the effectiveness in those under age 18, the Association of American Medical Colleges said.

This comes as the state saw nearly 1,300 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday and Gov. Tate Reeves expanded his mask requirement order.

Though not complete, Pfizer and BioNTech have based their trial on almost 44,000 people and it has been monitored by an impartial independent board.

“Based on the initial information we have, I feel really good about it,” Dobbs said.

Once the vaccine is here, distributing it throughout the state will present a logistics challenge.

For one thing, the vaccine comes in two parts and must be stored in -94 degrees Fahrenheit conditions, a situation hardly any local facilities have the means to maintain.

Dobbs said the state has received “minimal” financial support from the federal government to help with distribution of the vaccine, and the state will need to rely on the National Guard to a considerable degree.

He also cautioned that even when the vaccine becomes available, people will still need to wear masks and practice social distancing, due in part to the current surge of new cases.

Although Baptist Memorial Hospital had ICU beds available this week, Dobbs said not all parts of the state’s health care system are as fortunate. For instance, Jackson had no ICU beds available and only a very limited number was available in other areas.


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