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Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home issuing vaccines, when available

The waitlist for a COVID-19 vaccine at the Pearl River County Hospital is 700 people long and growing, but the number of vaccinations going into arms will increase next week.

The hospital’s staff is administering between 40 and 60 vaccinations per day, said RN Rebecca Dean. The goal is to increase that to 100 vaccinations per day next week. The health system was able to reallocate some vaccines to open up a few more slots at the hospital.

“The main thing it takes to increase that number is a lot more man power, so we’ve planned for longer hours to actually give vaccinations on some days to increase that number,” said Director of Nursing Deena Branum. “So staff will work some long days to get it done. It’s all hands on deck to get it done.”

By 11:30 Friday morning, the staff administered 35 vaccines, bringing the hospital’s overall total to 270. There are 400 vaccinations scheduled at the hospital.

Second doses will start to be administered next week, said Branum. Even after receiving a first dose of the vaccine, practicing COVID safety measures is still important.

“The CDC is recommending that everyone continue to wear their mask and practice social distancing and the hand sanitizers and washing with soap and water, just because at this time they’ve said you’re not fully protected with the first dose,” she said. “Even beyond that, there will still be a time frame where they have to do that as well.”

Patients coming for their vaccine on Friday were greeted by CNA Christy Hamilton, who entered their information into the hospital’s system. Hamilton has been handling much of the scheduling for the hospital’s vaccinations.

“The way that we do our scheduling has been pretty easy. Once we give them a scheduled time, they come in at their scheduled time, we roll them on in, they see registration, get their shot, wait a few minutes and out the door.”

Patients will get their white COVID-19 vaccination card, with the date the vaccine was administered and the medication they were given. After the vaccination, patients go to a waiting area for 15 minutes to be observed for any side effects.

The demand for vaccines locally increased when Governor Tate Reeves expanded the availability to people 65 and older and people with specific chronic health conditions.

Dean strongly recommends being vaccinated.

“It’s all we’ve got right now, other than social distancing, hand washing and wearing your mask. We’ve got to fight it the best way we can and these are the tools we’ve got,” she said.

RN Dominique Green administered the vaccine to patients Friday. Green hasn’t received her own vaccination yet. She had COVID in December and still has antibodies, so is waiting a few more days.

“But I do think it’s important for everyone to get them, because right now with the limits there are some that still can’t get it. There are young children that can’t get it, so when we get it, we’re protecting not only ourselves but the younger ones,” she said.

Branum was one of the first people at the hospital to be vaccinated.

“It didn’t hurt. I didn’t even have any reaction at the site, other than soreness of my arm, which that happens with any injection. I personally did have a reaction the next day, just some fever, body aches, chills, but not everybody is experiencing that.”

Branum was originally on the fence about getting the vaccine, but the death of a friend due to COVID convinced her to get it. Her 58-year-old friend was very active and the “picture of health” before he got COVID. He was in the hospital for more than two months and on a ventilator for over five weeks before he passed away.

“When you see the younger people get it and dying from it, who are healthy, it makes you rethink it.”

To get vaccinated at the Pearl River County Hospital and nursing home call 601-240-2023. Callers can expect to be added to a waiting list and to be called back after a vaccine dose becomes available. The Mississippi State Department of Health website, msdh.ms.gov, has a list of providers who are offering COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state and a list of drive-thru testing sites.

Vaccines can only be acquired with an appointment.