Top health experts share vaccine efficacy & distribution update

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After announcing that the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine could arrive in Mississippi by next week, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers provided additional information on the data from the trials and the state’s distribution plan.

The state will likely receive around 25,000 doses of the vaccine, which is administered through two shots. Dr. Dobbs revealed that the Pfizer vaccine is showing 95% efficacy and is strong results across all age groups, genders, and ethnicities following a trial of 44,000 participants. 

The state’s top medical experts also expressed that no serious side effects have been identified. Minor side effects include injection site swelling and discomfort in addition to short-lasting fatigue, chills, body aches and a slight fever. 

Dr. Dobbs and Dr. Byers each expressed their confidence in the vaccine and will be the first Mississippians to get the shots during a press conference at some point next week. 

“As soon as we get it, we will show you we practice what we preach. Based on the information I’ve seen right now, I will be very comfortable getting vaccinated,” Dr. Dobbs said. 

As for who will get it next, allocations will be sent to every acute care hospital in the state to be given to frontline healthcare workers. Doses will continue to be sent to these facilities, along with the MSDH county health departments, as they arrive. Long-term care facility residents would be the next property group to be vaccinated. 

The Pfizer vaccine requires a specific type of freezer for distribution, of which, Dr. Dobbs explained that the MSDH has identified enough to ensure the shots can be stored properly. The first deliveries of the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require the same storage equipment, is two weeks behind the Pfizer vaccine. 

There is a sizable cost associated with the plan to get the vaccine out. Dr. Dobbs estimated this would cost around $17 million for Mississippi. 

“We can’t make this happen without support…Developing the vaccine is step one. Step two is getting it to people. If we develop the vaccine and don’t get it to people, it doesn’t matter that we’ve done something phenomenal. We can’t stop before we get to the finish line. We’ve got to invest the amount of money it’s going to take to make this be successful,” Dr. Dobbs said.

As Mississippi, and the world, awaits the widespread distribution of the vaccine—which Dr. Dobbs said could be spring/summer 2021—the MSDH is preaching patience. 

“We want to bring as many people across the finish line as we can. I think there is a good chance that 1,000 more people can die between now and 2021. Those are people we can save. There are people who are going to be after that that we can save. We’ve got a vaccine on the horizon, and now is just the time to maintain patience,” he explained.

New MSDH guidance recommends that Mississippians avoid all nonessential gatherings including parties, weddings, funerals, sporting events, and in-person church services. 

As of this morning, 167,926 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state with 4,017 Mississippians passing away from the virus. An estimated 136,627 residents have recovered from the virus. 

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