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COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands, over 11,000 vaccinated in Pearl River County

As of Friday, Highland Community Hospital staff have administered 4,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses. All Mississippians will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning Tuesday, March 16.

In Pearl River County, 11,132 vaccine doses have been administered overall, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination reporting. Across the state, 885,799 doses have been administered. There have been 323,476 Mississippians fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

While earlier in the vaccination effort, Highland was receiving vaccine doses sporadically, shipments are now beginning to come in regularly, said Chief Nursing Officer Suzanne Wilson.

Highland is administering Moderna vaccines, so recipients will require two doses. Some Forrest Health primary care clinics in Picayune and Poplarville are starting to receive Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which are one dose.

There is still a long waiting list at Highland, but the hospital is working its way through the list, said Wilson. There were 3,000 people on that waiting list last week, but the hospital still needs to remove some names of people who have already been vaccinated, said Wilson.

Educators were added to the list of those eligible for the vaccine on March 1 and Highland has reached out to the local school districts to assist with getting them vaccinated, said Wilson. Governor Tate Reeves announced Monday via Twitter that all Mississippians are eligible for the vaccine beginning Tuesday.

The hospital is planning to hold an educator day to help get educators vaccinated and the school districts are working on lists of staff who have not been vaccinated and want to be, said Wilson.

Pearl River County School District Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said approximately 40 percent of the district’s staff have signed up to be vaccinated.

None of the schools in Pearl River County, Poplarville or Picayune have had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks. If a Mississippi school has three outbreaks within a two-week period, the school considers temporary closure. New cases in Pearl River County, Poplarville and Picayune schools are also on the decline, according to the case numbers reported in the MSDH Aggregate School COVID-19 reports.

“I think it’s important that we don’t get complacent because the numbers are low and maybe get lackadaisical on face covering and procedures,” said Lumpkin. “Let’s go ahead and finish this thing off and get back to normalcy and don’t take for granted and let this thing rear its ugly head again.”

MSDH reports 4,129 COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths in Pearl River County since the start of the pandemic. Mississippi has had 300,577 cases and 6,896 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. On March 14, the state reported 101 new cases and two deaths.

To receive a vaccine at Highland Community Hospital, call 601-358-9457. Vaccinations are also available at the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home. The Mississippi COVID-19 hotline, 877-978-6453, can help residents with scheduling vaccinations. Vaccinations can be scheduled online at covidvaccine.umc.edu.

The MSDH website offers a vaccination provider map and people can also contact their primary care provider to see if they are offering vaccines.