MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mississippi health leaders are praising progress made on the vaccine front as coronavirus cases continue to fall and vaccination rates rise.

Mississippi is reporting an additional 343 cases.  Health leaders say 46 percent of the eligible population has been vaccinated. 

African Americans make up the highest race of people who are vaccinated in the state. Officials stressed they don’t foresee the vaccine becoming a requirement for students.

At this the time, the FDA is discussing the approval of vaccinations for those under 12. Health leaders believe once that population is able to get vaccinated this pandemic can start to come to an end, which is why they are strongly encouraging parents to consider getting their young children vaccinated.

“It’s gonna be very very important that we do all the things we can to protect one another but also to stay out the hospital with COVID so one of the best ways to do is to get vaccinated,” said Jim Craig with the Mississippi State Department of Health. “Again, it’s simple it’s free. The vaccines are approved and they are safe.”

Officials say only 33 percent of children from 12 – 17 are vaccinated in the state.

Various initiatives are underway to increase vaccination rates such as offering vaccines at salons and at schools.