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OPINION: Reeves’ grave mistake in vaccine rollout

Following this week’s debacle with Mississippi’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, it would appear that Governor Tate Reeves missed the mark. 

On Wednesday, Reeves announced that Mississippi was “working ahead of schedule” in distributing vaccines. He even received the COVID-19 vaccine himself. 

What happened next became a huge problem that, as of Saturday morning, the good governor has yet to apologize for. 

Opening vaccine sign-ups to those ages 18 to 64 with pre-existing conditions essentially threw the floodgates open in a way that negatively impacted all involved.  

It’s not fair to blame the masses who flocked to the website for this problem. Instead, let’s examine one of the “pre-existing conditions” that would have qualified individuals to receive the vaccine.  

For example, those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 would be considered eligible to sign up. Mississippi has an adult obesity rate of 40.8 percent. In this act alone, Reeves made vaccines available to almost half the adult population.  

Seeing that smoking was also on the list of conditions, many people wondered, ‘If I take up smoking, can I sign up now?’ 

Then, late Wednesday evening, the Mississippi State Department of Health released a statement that shifted blame from them and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, saying they had essentially been overrun because their plan had been “significantly altered” in a 24-hour time span. 

The state of Mississippi had run out of vaccines. There weren’t enough doses to vaccinate everyone in this phase. Not only that, but teachers and first responders, who are on the front lines of the pandemic and were next in line to receive the vaccine after those 65 and older, had been skipped entirely.  

Those who were able to access the sign-up website would reach the end of the screening process only to be kicked off the list. People who called the sign-up hotline received a dial tone or notice that the number was out of service.  

Panic set in as many Mississippians were led to believe their time had come to receive the vaccine, only to find out they’d been over-promised and under-delivered. 

We all want coronavirus vaccines to be distributed as soon as possible. However, “working ahead of schedule” only works when you have the means to support your claims.  

The state will receive a “modest amount” of additional vaccine doses to begin correcting this error on Jan. 25, according to a Friday statement from MSDH. However, given recent events, doubt still remains as to whether this “modest amount” will be enough. 

For all intents and purposes, it appears that Reeves made a hasty decision to open vaccine sign-ups without examining supply and demand.  

Either way, after flaunting his own mask mandate at holiday parties and in travels to Washington, D.C., after taking an approach to managing the pandemic’s effect on Mississippians was fumbling at best, this latest error in Reeves’ judgment was an insult to the people he’s supposed to be leading.