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State experiencing surge in patients attempting COVID-19 vaccination

JACKSON — The Mississippi State Department of Health has stopped scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments due to a surge in patients they were unprepared for, health department officials said.

State health officials said a surge of patients resulted from the announcement of COVID-19 vaccinations becoming available to all Mississippians 65 and older and those who are younger with underlying health conditions.

Chuck Borum, MD, an Adams County physician, said some of his patients have tried to schedule a vaccination and were sent to health departments outside of Adams County because of the scarcity of the vaccine.

“I tell them to go ahead and try to get on the schedule,” Borum said of his advice to patients. “They were referring some people up to Leflore County. … Gosh, they can’t seem to give it out fast enough.”

Borum said he feels confident that more doses of the vaccine will be made available to the general public in the near future.

In a Wednesday afternoon news release, MSDH officials said they “significantly altered” their vaccine distribution plan due to the surge of patients attempting to get the vaccine after becoming eligible.

Mississippians 65 and older and those younger with certain chronic health conditions are now eligible to schedule a vaccination through the state health department.

However, online appointments have been scheduled for all of Mississippi’s current vaccine supply, according to MSDH, adding appointments are expected to resume in mid-February after a new vaccine shipment.

Those who’ve already received the vaccine should still be able to schedule their second dose.

“Neither the county health department drive-through sites, nor the UMMC vaccine scheduling website was designed to accommodate the monumental surge we are currently experiencing,” the MSDH news release states. “At this time, we have no additional vaccine, and every appointment is tied to an actual vaccination.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health hopes to receive a large shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses in mid-February that should help them to administer more of the vaccine to patients, the news release states.

“We understand the frustration brought on by this sudden change of plans. We will certainly keep all Mississippians updated regarding additional (vaccines),” MSDH officials said. “Mississippians should understand that we can only vaccinate residents based on vaccine availability. We will open additional vaccination appointments as we receive more (vaccines.)”

MSDH officials encouraged all Mississippians — whether vaccinated or not — to continue to follow protective guidelines and especially avoid any social gatherings and always wear a mask in public.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center provided a comment on their social media page regarding difficulties with their online vaccine scheduling tool.

“Many of the technical difficulties experienced when trying to schedule a vaccination appointment through the online scheduling tool at covidvaccine.UMC.edu have been corrected,” UMMC states on social media. “Work continues to improve functionality. The site and server were not prepared for the surge of page visits brought on by the announcement yesterday of vaccine availability for all Mississippians 65 and older and those in younger age ranges with underlying conditions.”

UMMC apologized for delays as they work to accommodate the surge in new appointments as well as comply with federal data reporting requirements.

The number of vaccine appointments allowed is being regulated by MSDH, the post states.

“Current long wait times when visiting the site are associated with the high volume of people trying to make an appointment. Vaccination sites and number of appointments available daily at each are determined by MSDH and we are working with them to update that information in the appointment tool,” UMMC said.

Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.

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