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OPINION: Mississippi’s vaccination reality defies national narrative

While criticism abounds for Governor Tate Reeves’ approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic, one major win is certainly Mississippi’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines to its citizens.

National media outlets reported in recent weeks that Mississippi is in a vaccine drought; that misinformation is prevailing; that residents either don’t have ready access to coronavirus vaccines, or are declining to get the vaccines available due to general distrust.  

However, just last week Mississippi state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs reported that Mississippi was the first state in the country to reach vaccine parity, meaning that Mississippi’s vaccine distribution percentages, along racial lines, mirror racial demographics in the state.

This is a huge win for Mississippi. Members of the EAGLE staff have received vaccines at Lafayette County, Warren County and Panola County, and all have reported their experience to be pleasant, prompt and professional. Some even likened it to a Chick-fil-A drive-thru and its efficiency.

Two truths exist in Mississippi. The first is that people are eager to return to their lives. They are tired of mask mandates, fatigued by social distancing and the lack of interpersonal relationships, burnt out after more than a year of living in a pandemic.

The second truth: If Mississippi follows the path it’s been on, that the state will reopen with no restrictions for masking, capacity in businesses or gatherings, the vaccine should be available to every single person who wants it.

While some may state what they feel is obvious, that it is too soon to remove restrictions and reopen the state fully, Reeves is handling this the right way.

Many national stories have depicted Mississippi as a backward place with narrow-minded thinkers and few resources. In many instances some of those stereotypes hold true. In terms of our vaccine rollout, though, not enough good can be said. 

Mississippi has been criticized for its lack of vaccine availability in rural areas. However, the state is addressing that through contracts with Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and other partners. Where there is not access to a chain pharmacy, or where people only have a rural hospital that does not have the capability to store coronavirus vaccines at safe temperatures, the state put out a call this week for health partners in distributing vaccines.

The initial rollout was bumpy, and in many ways mimicked vaccine rollout in other states. However, Mississippi leading the way in vaccine distribution has proven to be an effective strategy. We all want Mississippi, especially Oxford, to return to life the way it was pre-COVID. But before we can truly be wide-open, we must first take it advantage of wide availability of coronavirus vaccines. 

As far as coronavirus vaccine distribution is concerned, Mississippi is pushing against its negative portrayal on the national stage and bucking the narrative.