Sharkey County town closes vaccine access gap thanks to medical volunteers

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ROLLING FORK, Miss. (WJTV) – In efforts to close the gap between Mississippians living in rural areas and quick access to vaccines, one Sharkey County town transformed its community center into the area’s only drive-thru vaccination site.

Rolling Fork and surrounding communities noticed a lot of people, especially the elderly and those without quality internet, wanted to get the vaccine. They reached out to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). Through purse volunteer work, they made the drive-thru vaccination site possible.

To avoid having people drive all the way to Yazoo City, Greenville, or Vicksburg to get their shots, Rolling Fork Mayor Fred Miller brought the first and only vaccine site for Sharkey and Issaqueena counties to his city community center.

“At the end of the day, we know how many valves. We have and how many shots we’re going to have leftover,” Miller explained. “We make certain there are no shots are wasted, so we have a list of people who said if you get to that point, please call me. All the shots are used.”

Working with the Moderna vaccine, Rolling Fork coordinates with Sharkey County Emergency Management to get nurses and hospital volunteers from all over Mississippi to donate their own time.

“I put out a message on Facebook that just said I need volunteers,” vaccine site manager Natalie Perkins said. “And these are the people that come out and volunteer all the time. We pay them in lunch and thank you’s and pats on the back.”

After eight weeks of operation, Sharkey County sits at 34% of the county population receiving at least one dose with a second shot scheduled, which is more than any neighboring Delta county.

“Our goal is to hit about 70%, and as soon as this site shuts down our local hospital has set up a COVID-19 unit, they will start giving shots there,” said Miller.

The Rolling Fork site has injected as many as 400 people every Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. All patients reported no trouble getting their dose but paramedics were on standby in case of emergencies.

The medical staff who’ve volunteered to make this possible have come from as far as Greenville, Yazoo City, and Warren County to treat community members on their personal time. They expect to keep this site going until the end of May.

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