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Walmart pharmacies will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines in Mississippi

Mississippians will be able to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines at 31 Walmart locations throughout the state, beginning Tuesday.

Each Walmart location will be offering 200 vaccinations per day, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, and vaccinations are expected to begin Friday. Those doses will be in addition to state’s weekly allocation.

The Walmart locations were chosen to help balance the gaps in vaccine distribution, serving rural and underserved communities, said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a press briefing held Monday. None of the participating Walmart locations are in Pearl River County. Sign up is available at Walmart.com/covidvaccine.

MSDH updates an online list of facilities that have recently received COVID-19 vaccine doses, said Byers. Both Highland Community Hospital and Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home are on the most recent list.

New COVID-19 cases across the state are declining, but Dobbs cautioned state residents to continue prevention efforts like wearing masks and limiting social gatherings.

“We have an opportunity right now to get as many people vaccinated as possible and to try to get a lid on this thing in the state of Mississippi,” said Dobbs.

The state has gone through previous cycles of high surges, people taking precautions more seriously to reduce case numbers and then stopping those precautions as case numbers decline, said Byers.

“Now’s not the time to let off the gas. Now’s the time to continue to do those non-pharmaceutical interventions,” said Byers.

In Mississippi 39.4 percent of people 75 and older have been vaccinated, the group at highest risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. The state has created a separate phone line for people 75 and older to help them make vaccination appointments more quickly by phone.

Dobbs said the health department is excited about the possibility of having another vaccine as Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is being reviewed by the FDA for possible emergency use authorization. Dobbs said there are benefits, including that it would be a single dose and easier to store. Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not appear to be as good at preventing moderate illness from COVID as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, its efficacy to prevent severe illness is 85 percent, said Dobbs. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a promising option for preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, said Dobbs.

There are two new drive thru vaccination locations in the state in Warren County and Lawrence County. Beginning Feb. 23, there will also be a drive-thru location in Bolivar County, said Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig.

When returning for a second dose, people need to bring their white vaccination card, said Craig.

As of Feb. 8, 334,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Mississippi, including 271,310 first doses and 62,690 second doses. There have been 3,455 vaccine doses administered in Pearl River County.

As of Monday, 6,777 people with out of state addresses have been vaccinated in Mississippi, said Byers. To be eligible for vaccination in the state, someone has to either live or work in Mississippi.

There are no ID checks required to receive a vaccine, because MSDH does not want to add barriers to getting vaccinated when the state is trying to vaccinate vulnerable populations as quickly as possible.

“We don’t want someone who’s older and doesn’t have a driver’s license to have an impediment to get vaccinated,” said Dobbs.

Eligible individuals include people 65 and older, healthcare workers, long term care facility residents and people with qualifying chronic medical conditions.

The state’s COVID-19 hotline is 877-978-6453.