Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs on Monday was the first person in the state to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Today, Mississippi will initiate its vaccination campaign,” Dobbs said during the streamed press conference. “This will be the next phase in our fight against COVID-19. We are extremely excited to have a vaccine that is not only extremely effective, based on the clinical studies, but also seems to have a very favorable side effect profile.” 

Dobbs said he expects to have some “swelling” and a “little bit of achiness” after the shot. 

“But that’s so much worth it,” he said. “We know how deadly, devastating, and disruptive Coronavirus has been for the state of Mississippi.” 

Along with Dobbs, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, Health Protection Director and Senior Deputy Jim Craig, Sonja Fuqua, RN with the Community Health Center Association of Mississippi, and Dr. Leandro Mean of the University of Mississippi Medical Center also received the vaccination. 

“It felt like a butterfly,” Dobbs said after the vaccine was administered. “A little bit of a sting, not bad.” 

According to MSDH, the state received about 25,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

As of Monday, distribution has “begun to hospitals and health facilities for administration to staff involved in COVID-19 patient care. Nursing homes are also receiving vaccine for their residents and staff,” the MSDH website states. 

The MSDH expects additional doses of the vaccine in the coming weeks and will allow for the expansion of vaccination to “all healthcare workers in any setting, and continued priority on those in long-term care facilities.” 

In the coming months, as more vaccinations arrive, the distribution will be expanded to essential workers and high-risk groups (those with chronic disease and people over age 65), the MSDH states. 

“The schedule of future vaccine arrivals is hard to predict right now, but vaccinations for the general public will probably not be available for several months,” MSDH states. 

There are two vaccinations, 21 to 28 days apart, (depending on the type of vaccine) which will be required for full effectiveness, MSDH states. 

Dobbs said that the vaccination is “not going to have a big impact over the next couple of weeks.” 

“This is just the start, the beginning of the process,” he said. “We will not have enough people immunized to affect population transmission. What we may have, in the course of five or six weeks, or maybe eight weeks, are enough nursing home individuals and employees vaccinated to have an impact on that set of the population.” 

Dobbs said that he hopes to have people who have underlying conditions and people who are essential healthcare workers or essential workers of other types to be vaccinated. 

“So, if you think about that, the vulnerable people and essential workers make up probably the majority of folks in Mississippi,” Dobbs said. “A large part of Mississippi is going to be eligible to be immunized.” 

Dobbs said that during the pandemic, about 10 percent of cases have required hospitalization. 

“We’ve seen mounting daily hospitalizations and our peak has been 174 in a single day,” Dobbs said. “And once they get hospitalized, they tend to stay there longer than your average patient. We’ve been seeing 2,300 - 2,600 cases a day sometimes. We see a real avalanche of folks hitting the health care system soon. So I just want everybody to understand that we are going to have a rough winter.” 

Dobbs said that it’s “okay” to be cautious and/or concerned about taking the vaccine. 

“But, what I will say is that we believe in the vaccine,” Dobbs said. “Although there may be some mild side effects the next day, it is not only going to be better for us personally, but it’s going to be better for our families and it’s going to be better for our communities.” 

Dobbs said that there is “nothing new or mysterious” about the vaccine’s development process. 

“The reason that we were able to get an RNA vaccine so quickly is because of a decade of research that was going on up to this point,” he said. “We were uniquely fortunate to have the technology sitting on the shelf for a different infection, but translated perfectly for Coronavirus. And then from there, we were able to do the clinical trials in the normal sequence that we would do any other vaccine.” 

Dobbs advised people to obtain information from “reputable sources.” 

“If it comes from Facebook or social media, discount it immediately,” Dobbs said. “Talk to your doctor, talk to your provider, talk to your physician. I think those are the best things you can do.” 

Byers said the state is expected to receive the Moderna vaccine by next week. 

“We anticipate somewhere around 50,000 doses,” he said.”Again, these are estimates and we have to wait and see what the actual allocation is going to be when it gets here.”

The latest COVID-19 guidance and protective steps to take are also online at http://HealthyMS.com/covid-19.

The Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline is the best way to get your questions about COVID-19 answered. Call 877-978-6453 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

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