JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Residents 65 and older could soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
On Friday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the state hopes to begin offering the vaccine to those 65 and older the week of January 18.
Dobbs, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, and others spoke at a weekly Zoom meeting hosted by the Mississippi State Medical Association.
Officials discussed the vaccination rollout and the challenges they’ve faced with it. One of the big challenges has been increasing the capacity of the COVID-19 hotline.
“We had a 20-fold increase in call volume to the hotline,” Dobbs said. “A lot of it was people calling (asking), ‘when can I get my vaccine? I’m 13 and I have asthma.’
“We .. have added a large number of folks to help at the call center, 100 people or more, so that’s going to be a lot better.”
The news comes just days after the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) began making vaccinations available to seniors 75 and older.
The state health officer said the demand for the vaccine has been high, as evidenced by the increase in call volume to the state’s COVID hotline.
That increase, in turn, has meant long hold times for seniors seeking to schedule appointments to get their shots.
Dobbs said the issues came about, in part, because the state didn’t expect to begin offering vaccinations to those 75 and older until next week.
Previously, the shots had only been made available to healthcare workers and individuals at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
“With the healthcare workers, we knew we didn’t need that many phones, because everyone (made appointments) online,” he said.
“We weren’t planning on opening 75 and older until next week, but we had some unfilled slots at our drive-through locations,” he said. “We could not let them go unused, so we decided, ‘let’s open them up to 75 and older where they’re available.’”
Dobbs said since then capacity issues have been worked out. “We’ve vastly increased our call capacity, so that should be resolved already,” he said.
Even with more phone lines available, Dobbs is urging people seeking information on the vaccine to visit the MSDH website, so lines can remain open for those seeking to set up appointments.
Said Dobbs, “We really want people 75 and older and healthcare workers to get vaccinated now.”
To schedule an appointment, call 1 (877) 978-6453, or log onto covidvaccine.umc.edu.