Hattiesburg, Mississippi – Mayor Toby Barker was recently joined by Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, Hattiesburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams and Hattiesburg Clinic physicians, Dr. Bryan Batson, Dr. Jawauna Stewart and Dr. Anita Henderson to announce a Back-to-School COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at C.E. Roy Community Center (300 E 5th Street) for Saturday, July 17.
The clinic will be open from 9 a.m. until Noon, and it will be first-come-first-served with no appointment necessary. There is no cost to the patient, and both Pfizer and Johnson + Johnson vaccines for coronavirus will be available.
“For so long last year, we waited. We sacrificed collectively and individually through social distancing measures and mask requirements,” said Barker. “All of those things were done while we waited for an available vaccine. That vaccine arrived, and it has afforded us an opportunity to begin returning to many of those things we once enjoyed pre-pandemic. It has provided a way out of this pandemic. However, a way out only works if people are willing to go down that path.”
The latest numbers from the Health Department show that only 26% of Forrest County and 38% of Lamar County are fully vaccinated. The average for Mississippi is 33%.
Barker added, “Everyone believes in personal choice but also in personal responsibility. It is completely unnecessary for residents in our community to continue dying from coronavirus when there is a safe, effective vaccine available. Trust your doctor. Trust the science. Get your shot.”
Those who receive Pfizer will receive their first dose and have a standing appointment for a second dose at C.E. Roy on Saturday, August 7. Pfizer is available for ages 12 and up.
Those who receive Johnson + Johnson will receive the necessary single dose for vaccination. Johnson + Johnson is only available for ages 18 and up.
“Getting vaccinated is our opportunity to beat down this pandemic,” said Stewart. “We know that those who are not vaccinated are at risk of contracting, spreading it to others, being hospitalized and even dying. These vaccines are safe and well-studied, and the benefit of vaccination far outweighs any potential risk from very rare vaccine side effects.”
There will be no limit on shots available during the Saturday clinic. Officials and physicians both urge residents – parents and students, faculty and staff – to take advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated before the school year begins.
“We have a lot of children who are vulnerable right now, and we know that when school starts more and more children will contract coronavirus,” said Henderson. “Coronavirus in children is less severe [in symptoms], but we are seeing more kids with post-acute covid syndrome. Currently, about 10-20% of children who have covid go on to suffer from chronic fatigue, shortness of breath and tachycardia (high heart rate). These things are preventable and we encourage all kids 12+ to be vaccinated.”
Henderson, who is currently serving as the board president for the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, added “It’s our message to parents that you should talk to your pediatrician and get your child vaccinated. Vaccines for 12+ are available in pediatric clinics, the health department and in many school districts.”
Participating organizations and community partners are also working to provide incentives for those who choose to receive their vaccination at the July 17th clinic.
Twin Forks Rising, a community development corporation and local nonprofit, has partnered with the Sunshine Lady Foundation to provide $25 gift cards to the first 200 participants who receive the vaccine. They will also be distributing PPE and supplies.
The community is encouraged to use the event to take care of back-to-school needs but is available to all in Forrest and Lamar counties.