No appointments ’til more vaccine available, likely mid-February

Because of the unexpected demand, scheduling for appointments for first doses of the COVID vaccine has been suspended until the state receives more vaccine, probably in mid-February.
That action came after massive statewide demand for COVID-19 vaccine last week resulted in all of Mississippi’s available vaccine doses committed to immunization appointments within a short time frame. The earlier than expected announcement last Tuesday, Jan. 12, that vaccine would be available to a third group, age 65 and older, and those between 18 and 64 with health issues that would put them at additional risk if they were infected with COVID-19, opened a floodgate of people seeking to schedule a vaccination date, time and place.
The unexpected demand caused the state’s online and telephone-based scheduling system to become overwhelmed early on. Those attempting to schedule appointments Tuesday reported difficulty signing into the system and being unable to complete the application in the event they were able to access the site.
Meantime, those who have received their first dose of the vaccine may continue to use the web to schedule their second shot.
When the vaccine distribution started, health care workers were targeted as the first recipients. People ages 75 and older were the next targeted group with the vaccine being made available to them a bit earlier than first announced.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 12, Gov. Reeves announced that all residents age 65 and older, along with those with certain health conditions aged 18-64, would be eligible to make appointments. The governor had said earlier that he felt the process was slow moving, and he wanted to get the vaccine to the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Not long after the governor’s announcement opening vaccinations to the 65 and over group and those with underlying health conditions the state’s appointment scheduling system was overwhelmed and unable to handle the load.
Walthall Countians using the covidvaccine.umc.edu online appointment scheduler Tuesday evening into late Tuesday night either could not access the system, or, if they did, were thrown out of the system before the information could be completed. That’s because the online and telephone scheduling systems were not prepared to take on the unprecedented volume of users and callers it experienced, MSDH said.
By Wednesday morning, MSDH had created a waiting system, putting users in queue. Users were told to monitor the system, and when their turn came, they were able to enter their information and make appointments.
At its peak, more than 8,000 residents were in line at a given time, trying to make appointments using the site. While many residents here opted for the Pike County Heath Dept. vaccination site, eventually those appointments were all filled, and users were forced to schedule appointments at the nearest sites with available appointments, such as Natchez or Ellisville.
Since then, the queue has been eliminated and residents can now view, in real time, the remaining available appointments (if any) at the drive-thru locations.
In some instances, local residents were able to get vaccination appointments through local providers, such as the Walthall Rural Health Clinic at the local hospital, but those appointments were filled quickly and callers were told no more appointments were available.
Later in the day last Wednesday, MSDH said all doses that have been distributed to hospitals, private clinics and the 18 drive-thru vaccination locations in the state are now tied to appointments that have been made.
“We can only vaccinate residents based on vaccine availability,” the statement says. “We will open additional vaccination appointments as we receive more vaccine.”
Additional vaccine and appointment slots likely will not be available until mid-February, the statement continued.
More than 264,000 doses have been distributed throughout the state. At mid-week last week 73,391 doses had been administered statewide and 7,367 people had been given both doses of the two-part vaccine.
Gov. Tate Reeves says the vaccination goal at the drive-thru sites and at other providers is between 60,000 and 100,000 per week until all residents wishing to get the vaccine are able to do so.

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