Mayor assembles team of doctors and medical experts to educate Columbus residents about COVID-19 and vaccinations

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Columbus Mayor Keith Gaskin held a press conference Wednesday featuring a panel of local doctors and medical experts to address concerns or misconceptions residents may have about COVID-19 and the vaccine. “We’re encouraging people to consider getting vaccinated,” the mayor says. “We know that there are a lot of legitimate concerns out there by many.”

The panel discussion took place at the Columbus Municipal Complex Wednesday afternoon and streamed live on Facebook, where viewers submitted questions. “Are (you) going to be sentenced to death by a jury of (your) fears?” Dr. Torrance Green, who works for the Allegro Family Clinics, asked those in attendance. “Conspiracy theories that are often unfounded?” In addition to Dr. Green, the panel consisted of Dr. Andrea Morris, a pediatrician who practices at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle, Dr. James Woodard, who specializes in internal medicine for Allegro Family Clinics and Dr. Tammie McCoy, Dean of Nursing at the Mississippi University for Women. The Mississippi State Department of Health says 38 percent of Lowndes County’s population has gotten at least one of their shots, while only 33 percent are fully vaccinated. The mayor estimates that puts them at about the middle of the pack. “When we’re not vaccinated and then we’re walking around without masks, we’re actually putting people at risk,” says Dr. Morris.

Dr. Morris says that the 5.5 percent vaccination rate among 12-17 year-olds in Mississippi is particularly concerning. “Rising numbers of children are being hospitalized. That is definitely happening,” she says. “And not only are they being hospitalized, they’re being hospitalized at younger ages than we’ve seen previously.” The four doctors discussed how research on these specific types of vaccines has been going on for decades. “This is probably the most studied vaccine ever,” Dr. Morris says. “Because that initially started with the SARS back in 2003.” Other topics of discussion involved how less than 0.01 percent of fully vaccinated people test positive for the virus, and the importance of consulting with one’s doctor to make sure one does not have any underlying conditions. “If you don’t have any of those issues or severe allergies, it is perfectly safe to get the vaccine,” Dr. Morris says. Dr. Woodard spoke about how more COVID-19 variants are developing and how continuing to go unvaccinated not only prevents Mississippi from going back to normal, it could actually make things even worse. “Every time the virus gets in an area where there are fewer vaccinated people, then it starts taking off and more people get infected and it starts changing and before we know it, we got a new variant,” Dr. Woodard says. Mayor Gaskin says that while he agrees everyone has the right to make their own choice and the right to their own opinion, they do not have the right to choose their own facts. “As of now, it is a personal choice (to get vaccinated),” Dr. Morris says. “And quite honestly, your personal choice can affect other people.”

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