City of Memphis plans to vaccinate more than half a million people by the end of summer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you’re still waiting for a vaccine in Shelby County, it may not be for long. The City of Memphis, which is now running vaccine distribution, plans to get more than half a million people vaccinated in the county by the end of summer.

The Chief Operating Officer for Memphis, Doug McGowen, made the announcement Tuesday at the Shelby County Task Force meeting.

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“We’re aiming to getting around 700,000 vaccinated by this summer, by the first of August. We have to do about 50,000 a week to achieve that goal,” said McGowen.

McGowen says this week the city is meeting with hospitals, clinics, and public partners to prepare for an increase in the number of vaccines that will become available to the public.

In mid-March, the county will go from getting 13,700 doses weekly to 20,200 doses primarily due to increased production from Pfizer and Moderna.  The city also believes the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help it reach a long-term goal.

Memphis Fire Director Gina Sweat is now the second in command for distribution and managing the vaccines in Memphis. She said her team has the capability to deliver around 34,000 doses a week to pod sites if the number continues to rise.

To reach the August goal of 700,000 doses administered, the city is moving to a new scheduling system to include the second dose of the vaccine in the coming days.  They’ll also make changes to the 222-SHOT line by bringing on a professional call center to add more people to answer the phones and get more appointments created.

There will also be changes in the Vax Queue system. The task force says they’ve stopped new people from signing up for that waiting list as they work through this change of power.

“We’re moving forward. I want to make it clear that there’s not a conflict between the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis as some have ruled. We’re partners in this, and we’re working together,” said Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph.

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Fire Director Gina Sweat said that as soon as the change became official, Memphis firefighters and city employees went to work to get the vaccines delivered to pod sites and ensure that everything operates smoothly.

“Any time you transition, and you’re given something mid-stream, we have to figure out where we are, where we’re going, and then what do we need to get there? That’s where we’ve been. We’re trying to learn from the many mistakes that have been made and the good things that were already in place,” said Sweat.

She says the goal now is to make sure that the vaccines’ inventory goes down as soon as possible. Her team is working to make sure that firefighters and paramedics now have immunizations and are well taken care of against any potential risks now that they’re working distribution and their everyday rescue efforts.

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