HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – In the last year, rural communities in Mississippi have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the biggest challenges rural clinics face are cold storage resources and getting the vaccine to people who live many miles away. Once the COVID-19 vaccine is taken out of the freezer, it has to be used within six hours.

“We have to schedule those things in advance because of how fragile the vaccine is. The way you have to use the vaccine, the temperature ranges of the vaccine.”

Pati Knight with Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative said the challenge they face right now is having the available staff to administer the vaccines to patients.

“The major barrier we have in providing those vaccines is staffing, having the staff available to continue seeing patients in the clinic and to do the COVID vaccines, as well,” said Knight.

There’s also a shortage of pharmacies in rural areas, which makes it difficult for some to receive the vaccine. That’s why having rural clinics like Southeast Mississippi Rural Health make a difference and the timing is critical.

“We can’t just say I’m going to take ten vaccines down to Brooklyn. There’s a process we have to follow and notify the department of health, transfer those vaccines within the state’s system, get approval to do that and get them accepted at the site where we send them.”

In an effort to meet demand, Southeast Mississippi Rural Health initiative is offering drive-thru vaccinations on the weekends in March and April.