Expanded Mississippi guidelines may mean longer vaccination lines

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BATESVILLE, Miss. — More people are getting their COVID-19 vaccine. But new guidelines in Mississippi could make the lines there even longer.

The state is now listing obesity as an underlying condition to be able to get the vaccine. Cars line up at the Batesville Civic Center as people wait for the COVID-19 vaccine given by the Health Department.

Meanwhile, over at the Panola Medical Center they got 300 doses early on, and it didn’t take long to go through the first batch.

“We ran through those 130 vaccines within about 2 hours,” Chris Ware, the Panola Medical Center-Chief Operating Officer, said.

Expanded guidelines on who can get the vaccine could have more people lining up. In addition to things like cancer and heart conditions, now obesity is an underlying factor to get the vaccine first.

“Our front office phone was ringing off the hook my cell phones ringing off the hook,” Ware said.

Mississippi has topped the list for obesity rates around the country. An obesity study in 2019 said 40-percent of Mississippians were obese, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher.

It means more than 40% of people in the state qualify for the vaccine. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is trying to get more people vaccinated and wants  providers to give out the shots they have.

“We should have a goal of pushing somewhere between 60 and 100 thousand shots a week. The only way that can happen is if these other programs our hospitals, private clinics and our pharmacy programs and nursing homes start seeing significant up ticks in the number of shots,” Reeves said.

And as the age limit goes down to those 65 and older, Mississippi braces for more response and how to confirm a person’s underlying condition.

“People want the vaccine really bad. I am not saying anybody would falsify anything but, we have to make sure we are doing the right thing and following the guidelines from the state,” Ware said.

The Panola Medical Center is planning to give out 100 doses of the vaccine this Friday, but it’s by appointment only. Until they hear otherwise, they’re holding back doses for those who need their second round of shots.

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