(AP Photos/Rogelio V. Solis)

by Leah Willingham, Associated Press

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday praised the Trump administration’s efforts to make a coronavirus vaccine available to the public in the next few months and asked residents not to allow political divisions to stop them from getting vaccinated when the time comes.

“If you are anti-Trump, don’t let this stop you from getting a vaccine,” Republican Reeves said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Reeves has raised concerns about the politicization of the pandemic from Republicans and Democrats multiple times in recent weeks. He said Wednesday that politics, particularly from politicians on the left who dislike Trump, is “infecting” the scientific process of work on a vaccine.

Earlier that day, at least one Senate Democrat accused Trump of trying to rush the work of scientists and public health experts to get them to have a vaccine ready before election day in early November and bump up his approval ratings. Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine could become available before November, despite scientists’ statements that one isn’t likely to be completed until at least the new year.

A handful of vaccines already are in final testing in the U.S. and other countries. A new late-stage study by Johnson & Johnson aims to enroll 60,000 volunteers, one of the biggest so far, to prove if its single-dose approach is safe and protects against the coronavirus. Other candidates in the U.S. require two shots.

“If you trusted the process before Donald Trump became president, the process has not changed,” Reeves said, adding that all companies working on a vaccine must conduct detailed clinical trials and submit the results for scrutiny by experts at the FDA and other agencies.

Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence urged governors to “do your part to build public confidence that it will be a safe and effective vaccine.” A recording of the call was provided to The Associated Press.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Wednesday that even when a vaccine is completed, its rollout will be a gradual process. Vulnerable populations such as first responders, healthcare workers and the elderly will likely get first priority.

The Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported at least 94,573 reported cases and at least 2,870 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening. That’s an increase of 552 confirmed cases and 24 deaths from numbers reported the day before.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild symptoms for most but can be severe or fatal.