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Wicker: Two million Americans a day are receiving miracle shot

After a long and challenging year battling the coronavirus, Americans can be encouraged that we are finally turning a corner in this pandemic. COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations have dropped significantly since their peak in January, giving states flexibility to begin lifting restrictions and mask mandates. Perhaps most importantly, our vaccines are proving to be a remarkable success.

Two million Americans a day are now receiving a life-saving dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which have proven to be highly effective at preventing severe illness. A fourth vaccine made by AstraZeneca is expected to undergo FDA review soon. Based on these trends, the White House predicts we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May — two months earlier than previously expected.

Experts have cautioned that we are not yet out of the woods. Doctors and nurses are now racing against the clock to immunize Americans as variant strains of the virus are beginning to spread. Even so, there is no mistaking how far we have come and the difference these miraculous vaccines are making. Just days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it is safe for vaccinated individuals to gather indoors with people from another household. If the vaccine rollout continues on pace, we can expect more aspects of daily life to return to normal this year.

Bipartisan action led to scientific breakthroughs

The extraordinary success of these vaccines was made possible by swift bipartisan action in Congress last year. Last March, Congress approved $8 billion to expand testing and fund the scientific research needed to find a vaccine. In the weeks that followed, the Trump Administration negotiated deals with drug companies to pre-purchase hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, putting Americans first in line for vaccination. At the time, since it was unclear which vaccines would turn out to be successful, the Administration purchased doses from several companies – 200 million from Pfizer, 200 million from Moderna, 100 million from Johnson & Johnson, and 50 million from AstraZeneca. Fortunately, all four vaccines turned out to be highly effective in clinical trials, giving the U.S. a huge arsenal of first-rate vaccines to help us defeat the virus.

Vaccines reach the most vulnerable Americans first

The first doses became available in December, with health care workers, the elderly, and those with certain chronic health conditions being first in line to receive the shot. Since then, more than 100 million doses have gone into American arms, and nearly two-thirds of Americans over 65 have received their first shot.

These efforts led to a 65 percent decline in nursing home deaths between December and February, prompting federal officials to relax restrictions on nursing home visits this past week.

Mississippi is doing a good job keeping pace with the rest of the country. We are running slightly ahead of Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee in getting our population immunized, with more than 130,000 Mississippians receiving a dose each week.

Walmart, Walgreens and local pharmacies are playing a critical role in providing shots, as are the many community health centers and drive-thru sites across Mississippi. Those who are now eligible for the shot include health care workers, first responders, adults 50 and older, teachers and those with a qualifying health condition.

I encourage every eligible Mississippian to register for a free drive-thru vaccination at https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/14,0,420,976.html.

Each new shot in the arm will help our state and the nation finally put this pandemic behind us.

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