As the COVID-19 vaccines become available to elderly citizens, more vaccination sites are opening in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties, including at area hospitals and the Mississippi Horse Park.
Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle is vaccinating individuals 75 and older by appointment, hospital spokespeople told The Dispatch Tuesday. Those wishing to be vaccinated are asked to call a hotline at 662-244-2001 any time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to give their health information and make an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine.
The hospital, which has been vaccinating its employees with exposure to the virus for about the last month, began vaccinating qualifying members of the general public Tuesday and will continue today and Thursday. Ashleigh Guyton, Baptist’s community relations coordinator, said there are 600 doses set aside for individuals 75 and older and that 225 people were vaccinated Tuesday alone.
“Baptist is working hard to give this out to our community,” Guyton said. “… Being able to give this, especially to our patients who are 75 because they’re especially vulnerable, is super important.”
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday the vaccine would also become available this week to individuals 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions, such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease, among others. Guyton said Baptist will begin distributing Moderna vaccines to those 65 and older “as soon as we possibly can.”
Health care workers at OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville also began vaccinating patients 75 and older at the hospital on Tuesday, according to a press release on the hospital’s website. OCH Interim Chief Nursing Officer Savannah Brown said 100 doses of the shot would be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Appointments had filled up by Tuesday, the hospital posted on social media.
“We are continuing to vaccinate our staff and other health care professionals in our community,” Brown said in the release. “We know from statistics that those 75 and (older) are particularly high-risk for negative outcomes from COVID infections, so we want to provide this protection to them as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Mississippi State Department of Health has moved its drive-through vaccination sites from the local health departments in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties to Fairview Baptist Church on Airline Road in Columbus and the Mississippi Horse Park on Poor House Road in Starkville. MSDH’s website says those 65 and older can make appointments to receive a vaccine at any of the department’s drive-through sites throughout the state.
Those 65 and older with chronic health conditions can receive a Pfizer vaccine at Fairview’s drive-through site, Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Cindy Lawrence said.
Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency Director Kristen Campanella previously told The Dispatch she had been working with officials at MSDH and the horse park to use the park as a larger vaccination site. On Tuesday, Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum announced in a press release the horse park would be open as a drive-through vaccination site starting today. Campanella said there are 400 appointments today, adding that number will probably increase to closer to 600 per day in coming weeks.
The horse park site is distributing Moderna vaccines, Campanella said. She added people with appointments should arrive no earlier than 10 minutes prior to the appointment time to help with traffic flow.
“This is the best drive-through facility that we have that is accessible to city and county residents without putting them in the middle of a populated campus, so it’s accessible and it’s safe,” MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter told The Dispatch. “We want to be as always good neighbors and good partners with the government entities here, and obviously, while these tests are not exclusive to Mississippi State’s faculty, staff and students, it will benefit some of them as well.”
Salter stressed the site is manned by MSDH and OCEMA officials who will distribute the vaccines.
Anyone wishing to make an appointment at the Horse Park — or at Fairview Church in Lowndes County — must visit https://covidvaccine.umc.edu or call 877-978-6453.
After receiving their vaccination shots, individuals will spend 15 minutes under observation from health professionals. After that period is up, they will make a follow-up appointment to receive the second dose.
The site at Fairview is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the horse park is open for vaccinations Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As of Tuesday, Reeves said, 62,744 doses of the vaccine had been administered statewide — representing approximately 2 percent of the population. Of the individuals who received the vaccine, 57,014 have received only their first dose, while about 5,730 people have received their first and second doses, The Associated Press reported.
The vaccine rollout comes as numbers of COVID-19 cases are growing in the state and the country. MSDH reported 1,648 new cases and 98 deaths on Sunday alone, according to its website, while 52 deaths were reported between Jan. 5 and Monday. As of Sunday, there have been 241,957 cases reported in the state since the pandemic began.
“With the numbers and the direction that they’re going, anything the university can do to slow and ultimately stop the spread of COVID is something we want to be doing,” Salter said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.