By LEAH WILLINGHAM, Associated Press/Report for America
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Due to lagging demand for shots, Mississippi has not accepted new vaccine doses from the federal government for two weeks and has asked that well over three-quarters of a million doses the U.S. government set aside for the state be transferred elsewhere, officials say.
In recent months, the state has transferred 871,950 vaccine doses to Rhode Island, Maine and a nationwide vaccine pool, said Liz Sharlot, spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Health. Maine is among the states in the U.S. with the highest vaccination rates.
“In Mississippi, if people don’t understand how important it is to keep alive, we want to protect other Americans,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a virtual press briefing on Friday, speaking about the decision to limit the number of vaccine doses being accepted by the state.
Sharlot said 32,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine set aside for Mississippi by the federal government were sent to Rhode Island on April 20, and 32,400 doses to Maine.
The state has transferred at least 807,150 doses to a federal vaccine pool. The state’s first transfer to the pool was May 6.
The doses transferred to other places were never actually physically in Mississippi.
Each week, the federal government provides every state with a number of available doses to be ordered and distributed to providers, Sharlot said. This number is based on “provider demand and the individual state’s needs,” Sharlot said.
Officials with the state Department of Health review the number of doses made available for Mississippi to order each week and determine whether to order additional doses, or send the doses to the federal pool for other states to use.
Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, with around 29% fully vaccinated. Just over 930,650 people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to data provided by the state Department of Health.
Officials say they want to waste as little vaccine as possible. Approximately 7,850 doses have gone to waste in Mississippi so far, Sharlot said.
Since the start of the pandemic, at least 7,353 people in the state of 3 million people have died of coronavirus-related complications. There have been approximately 319,115 cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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