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Older Mississippians may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine earlier than others in the state, according to a draft of the plan for distribution released by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

The draft, which was released last month, lists the order in which people can get vaccinated in the state. It is broken down into two phases, with groupings in each phase for different levels of early access.

The first phase has been created to determine who would first get the vaccine if there is a limited supply. It is broken down into two sub-groups, phase 1-A and 1-B.

People in phase 1-A would get the very first doses of the vaccine, and the people in the group include health care workers, whether paid or volunteers, who have a higher likelihood of contracting the virus in their work.

Those in phase 1-B, which includes the most essential workers for society to function and individuals who are at a higher risk of complications from the virus — including people over the age of 65, would be the next to get the vaccine. This group also includes people with underlying health conditions or people who live in long-term care facilities.

Phase 2 will begin when there is enough supply of the vaccine to likely meet demand. The state department of health will help regulate the amount of vaccine needed to meet demand in this phase, and it will be available to a large part of the general population. 

In phase 3, there will be widely available and part of routine vaccination schedules. The state health department will focus on making sure the vaccine is accessible for underserved populations through public and private partnerships. The department will also work to ensure that the supply matches the need in the state, hoping to reduce wasting the vaccine by having too much on hand or not having proper refrigeration for storage.

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