Local hospitals working to vaccinate high number of Mississippians with pre-existing health conditions

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – As Mississippi health officials work to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the public 65 and older and those with pre-existing health conditions, they must contend with the sheer number of Mississippians who live with those conditions.

“History of high blood pressure and heart trouble, diabetes, obesity is a big one, history of smoking,” said Dr. James Martin, the chief medical officer at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle. “All those are at a very high risk of having a very poor outcome if they get COVID.”

Around 40 percent of adults in Mississippi struggle with obesity, more than any other state in the U.S. per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Mississippi State Department of Health lists cardiovascular diseases as the state’s leading cause of death.

“We’ve seen across the nation that obesity is a huge problem for poor outcomes (for COVID-19 patients),” Dr. Martin said.

The CDC also says over 20 percent of Mississippi adults smoke.

Governor Tate Reeves announced Monday that 20,000 vaccine appointments have been added to the state health system and more should be available by late January.

“I believe everybody should have access to it and we really shouldn’t control that but at the same time, we kind of have to to make sure the people that really do need it get it,” said Columbus resident Justine Gifford when asked about the current vaccine distribution plan.

Baptist is one of many locations across the state that are now out of vaccine doses after the expansion.

“When they opened it up to that group of people, it kind of, I’m not going to say overwhelmed our system, but it quickly used up our vaccines,” Dr. Martin said.

Governor Reeves said Monday that Mississippi now has over 37,000 initial doses of the vaccine.

Hospital administrators at Baptist tell WCBI they were told to expect more doses by early February but they currently have no set timetable on when more shots will be available or when they can start booking appointments.

Dr. Martin says the challenges don’t end once those new doses arrive.

“It takes a lot of manpower at Baptist to give those (doses) but we’re looking forward to the challenge and we’ll figure out a way to vaccinate some more as soon as we get some more vaccines,” he said.

Dr. Martin says Baptist has received continuous calls to make appointments and says they set up multiple different phone lines to field those calls.

Click here for information on making an appointment for a vaccine.

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