JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As the Magnolia State enters its fourth month of vaccination appointments and drive-through clinics, a 3 On Your Side analysis finds most of the state’s counties’ vaccination efforts are falling below the statewide percentage.
Data from the Mississippi State Department of Health indicates 20.6 percent of Mississippians have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Fifty-eight of Mississippi’s 82 counties have vaccination percentages below that number.
In Issaquena County, which ranks lowest in the state, 11.3 percent of residents there have been at least partially vaccinated.
Health experts like Dr. Jonathan Wilson say that’s an example of health care deserts playing a role in low vaccination rates.
“Sharkey and Issaquena counties share one hospital in Rolling Fork, and that is the resource for those two counties. So there aren’t a lot of resources to leverage to get vaccines out in a quick and efficient way,” Wilson said. “That’s why we’ve had to rely on the National Guard and the health department to really put an infrastructure in place where there may not be one in the community.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said in a statement that the health department did set up a drive-through clinic to target those residents, though it’s not listed on MSDH’s vaccination map.
“[We] will continue to focus on vaccinations in Issaquena and other Delta counties and improve and increase access,” Byers said in a short statement.
Issaquena County has no hospital; its only clinic closed three months ago.
Rolling Fork Mayor Fred Miller told 3 On Your Side the vaccination site in his town is one of only three in the state staffed only by volunteers.
Wilson says one of the biggest hurdles continues to be increasing access to health care in areas that have been historically underserved.
“There are different aspects, cultural community, individual that drive everyone’s accessibility to health care. And this is really no different. We did have to be pretty outside the box and how we distributed the vaccine and get it distributed as widely as we could, as quickly as we could,” Wilson said.
While Issaquena County ranked lowest in our analysis, several heavily populated Mississippi counties rank among the highest in the state.
For example, more than thirty percent of Madison County residents have gotten at least the first dose of the vaccine. In Hinds County, that number is almost 25 percent.
The highest percentage of residents partially vaccinated -- 42 percent -- belongs to rural Jefferson County. Those numbers will likely climb, Wilson said.
A new Millsaps College/Chism Strategies poll said most Mississippians who participated in the poll will at least probably get the vaccine.
Compare that with a January poll that indicated nearly half did not want the vaccine.
“It is encouraging to see the interest around the state in the vaccine, obviously. Even though it’s now open to all adults in Mississippi, we still want to focus on our citizens that are above 65 and above 50,” Wilson said. “We know that we have the highest mortality and morbidity rates associated in those age groups.”
At the same time, Wilson encourages those still on the fence. Twenty percent of those polled say they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.
“Just last week, I was able to go home and visit with my mother, and not have to worry about having a mask, because she’s been fully vaccinated. I’ve been fully vaccinated. And that was a great thing. And so these vaccines do give us a glimmer of hope. And that’s something that we really haven’t had a lot of in this pandemic,” Wilson said.