The numbers showed 2,469 of the 2,510 Mississippians who died of COVID between January 1 and August 4, 2021, had not been vaccinated. That’s 98%.
The numbers showed 99% of Mississippians contracting COVID since January had not been vaccinated. And, just last week 87% of those hospitalized from COVID had not been vaccinated.
Authorized for emergency use last December, vaccines became the best way to avoid getting COVID and greatly reduced its severity when contracted.
Still, the numbers show only 39% of Mississippians are vaccinated, one of the nation’s lowest rates.
The numbers show the COVID delta variant pushed new cases in Mississippi to record highs this fall, disrupting schools and businesses once again.
This variant has shown that COVID can mutate into more dangerous forms. Beware the “mu” variant. It may be the next high risk mutation.
Health officials say more than 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID and hinder future mutations.
The Mississippi State Department of Health has recommended all Mississippians age 12 and up get vaccinated. It and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs have undertaken monumental efforts to make this happen.
But, as that 39% vaccination rate shows, many remain reluctant even as cases and deaths mount up.
On August 23 the FDA issued full approval for the Pfizer vaccine. Other full approvals are expected soon.
This will put a new issue on the table for state health officials.
State law (MS Code 41-23-37) provides, “The state health officer shall specify such immunization practices as may be considered best for the control of vaccine preventable diseases.” Schools are required to comply. The Mississippi IHL Board requires its universities to comply.
Once more vaccines get full approval, will Dobbs and the MSDH take the next step and make vaccines mandatory for schools and, consequently, for universities?
The issue has already hit the table for universities.
The IHL Board met August 27 in emergency session to consider mandating vaccines. It did not. A press release said the board relied on MSDH’s recommendation dated August 4, 2021, 19 days before Pfizer got full approval. It said, “MSDH recommends that all eligible students, faculty, and staff receive COVID-19 vaccination.”
Despite efforts by two board members with health backgrounds to require vaccinations, nine members voted to simply recommend vaccines for students, faculty and staff (except for the University of Mississippi Medical Center where they required vaccinations).
Meanwhile, the University of Mississippi faculty senate appears likely to call for mandated vaccinations later this month. Thirty universities around the country have already mandated vaccinations.
Note: That same August 4 memorandum to universities says, “MSDH directs that masks be worn universally indoors for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.”
This shows an MSDH willing to require action in a state with a reluctant governor and many anti-maskers and anti-vaxers.
Once more vaccines get approved, will this willingness lead the beleaguered Dr. Dobbs and MSDH to “direct” schools and universities to require vaccinations?
The numbers say they should.
“And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing” – Luke 9:2.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.
(Originally published in The Pine Belt News on September 9, 2021.)