FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in the Mid-South

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — How will vaccines be distributed in the Mid-South? When can you expect to receive the vaccine? Here’s what we know so far:

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Starting on April 5, Governor Bill Lee said all Tennesseans over the age of 16 are eligible to get vaccinated.

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The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December and the Moderna vaccine not long after. The third vaccine, Johnson and Johnson, has also been approved.

Tennessee put together a dashboard that is available to help keep track of how many vaccinations have been reported.

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Who will get the vaccine first in Tennessee?

The Tennessee phases differ from those proposed by federal agencies in several ways. Phase 1a of the Tennessee plan is sub-divided into two phases: one for inpatient health care providers, first responders with direct exposure to the public, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities, and a second for those primarily working in outpatient health care settings.

Click here for a more in-depth breakdown of the COVID-19 Vaccine Phases in Tennessee

If your county has already begun age-based vaccination phases, click on your county at the link above and request an appointment.

The Tennessee Department of Health also put out a Fact v. Fiction in regards to the vaccine.

Tennesse is currently in Phase 1c of vaccinations which includes:

  • Chronic renal disease
  • COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, Cystic Fibrosis, moderate-severe asthma
  • Obesity (BMI >30)
  • Heart failure, CAD, cardiomyopathies, hypertension
  • Sickle cell (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
  • Cerebrovascular disease or stroke
  • Dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Technologically-dependent individuals ages >16 years and the household residents and caregivers of children <16 years old who are technologically-dependent (such as individuals who are ventilator-dependent, oxygen-dependent, with tracheostomy, wheelchair-bound due to high-risk medical condition, or require tube feedings, parenteral nutrition, or dialysis)
    • Individuals ages >16 years with immunocompromising conditions and the household residents and caregivers of children <16 years old who have immunocompromising conditions (such as individuals receiving chemotherapy, requiring daily oral steroids or other immunosuppressants, requiring medication to control diabetes, those with HIV/AIDS or other diagnosed high-risk immunodeficiency)
    • Household residents and caregivers of children <16 years old who have complex congenital heart disease requiring ongoing medical management, such as Tetralogy of Fallot, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and double outlet right ventricle, qualify for the Katie Beckett waiver
    • Pregnancy (NOTE: The CDC and World Health Organization have advised that pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women, and women who are pregnant are encouraged to discuss this decision with their medical provider.)

Have questions about the spread of coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

Shelby County

According to the city of Memphis website, if you need to find a COVID-19 testing center near you, you may call 833-556-2476 or 877-857-2945 or view the map below. A full list of sites is also available on their website.

In February, the city of Memphis took over the storing and distribution of vaccinations after several mishaps within the Shelby County Health Department after doses were expired, allegedly stolen or lost.

Below is a breakdown from the Shelby County Health Department:

During January, the vaccine will be available to persons in the following categories, as defined by the Tennessee Department of Health in its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan:

All persons listed in the 1a1 groups, including:

  • First responders with direct public exposure including EMS, law enforcement, and firefighters
  • Staff working at COVID-19 mass testing sites
  • Staff and residents of long-term care facilities, residential homes for the aged, and staff and residents of assisted living centers who have direct contact with residents or contact with potentially infectious materials
  • Staff of other congregate care facilities such as homes for the intellectually or developmentally disabled, detention centers, Staff of Department of Children’s Services residential facilities, rehabilitation hospitals and psychiatric hospitals who have direct patient contact or contact with potentially infectious materials
  • Home health care staff with direct patient contact
  • Staff and residents of long-term care facilities, residential homes for the aged, and staff and residents of assisted living centers who have direct contact with residents or contact with potentially infectious materials
  • Individuals > 18 years or older who cannot live independently due to serious chronic medical condition or intellectual or developmental disability
  • Providers of K-12 or university student health services who have direct patient contact or contact with potentially infectious materials
  • Funeral/mortuary service providers
  • Health care workers, including: Primary care providers and staff Outpatient specialty providers and staff working with acute patients Pharmacists and staff Patient transport Outpatient therapists Urgent visit center providers and staff Environmental services Oral health providers Behavioral health providers Outpatient laboratory staff working with COVID-19 specimens
  • Individuals age 75 and over

Phase 1b of the Shelby County’s COVID-19 vaccination plan started Feb. 24, which includes:

  • Residents who are 65 years and older, teachers, and childcare staff.

Also, the Health Department had partnered with Shelby County Schools, all municipal school districts, the Achievement School District, and Independent Schools to make teacher vaccinations available.

Phase 1c of the Shelby County’s COVID-19 vaccination plan starts March 8, which includes:

  • Serious chronic health conditions
    • chronic renal disease
    • COPD
    • pulmonary fibrosis or moderate-severe asthma
    • obesity (BMI>30)
    • heart conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy and hypertension
    • sickle cell disease
    • cerebrovascular disease or stroke
    • dementia
    • liver disease

The vaccine will also be made available to caregivers of people with high-risk medical conditions and women who are pregnant. For a detailed list of the high-risk health conditions covered under phase 1C, please refer to Tennessee’s COVID-19.

Other Vaccination Providers Other providers are also vaccinating persons in the priority groups, including:

  • Veteran’s Administration: Now vaccinating all veterans age 65 and older at the VA Medical Center at 1030 Jefferson Avenue. Veterans must be enrolled with the VA at www.va.gov to receive a vaccination.
  • Walmart: Now vaccinating those in groups 1a & 1b. To schedule an appointment, go to https://www.walmart.com/cp/1228302.
  • Kroger: Now vaccinating those in groups 1a & 1b. To schedule an appointment, go to www.kroger.com/rx/guest/get-vaccinated.

Appointments may be made on the online appointment here


Who can get the vaccine in Mississippi?

Anyone 16 to and older is eligible for vaccines in Mississippi.

Full breakdown here

Where You Can Be Vaccinated?

“Any Mississippian may visit any private vaccination provider or drive-through vaccination site in any county. There is no restriction to receive the vaccination in the county where you live. However, since COVID-19 vaccination requires two doses, please arrange for your second vaccination at the same location that you received your first vaccination to ensure accurate recordkeeping,” the Mississippi Dept. of Health said.

Vaccine Sites and Appointments

If you are eligible for the vaccine you can register here (When we first checked there were 7,000 people registered, however, the number dropped to nearly 5400 in about a minute.)

If scheduling online isn’t convenient, call one of the Mississippi COVID-19 Hotline numbers.

  • (877) 978-6453
  • (601) 965-4071

Click here for the Mississippi vaccine report which includes how many people have been vaccinated in the state


The Arkansas Department of Health has released a lengthy plan for how the state will distribute vaccines in the coming months.

Who’s getting the vaccine now?

Phase 1C has started, which means vaccinations are happening now for:

  • Arkansans aged 16 to 64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19.
  • Essential workers in: Energy Finance Foodservice Information technology and communications Legal Media Public health/human services Public safety Shelter and housing Transportation and logistics
  • People residing in high-risk settings Includes those who are incarcerated or detained; those living in group homes, congregate settings, or crowded housing; and student housing such as dorms and Greek housing.
  • Arkansans in Phase 1A and 1B also remain eligible.

Where and how can you get vaccinated?

Eligible Arkansans can make an appointment at a community pharmacy. Vaccine clinics and events may also be available in your area through hospitals, health care providers, or your worksite. Click here for a list of vaccination sites.

Click here for a COVID-19 map of 1-A and 1-B pharmacy locations

Click here for the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Frequently asked questions below:

“I don’t fit into one of the first phases of distribution. When can I expect to receive the vaccine?”

The answer is not exactly known and many factors will play into it. But, it not unrealistic to say it will be several months before younger, healthy adults will be able to get the vaccine. It comes down to how fast the rollout for essential workers and higher-risk individuals is going. If distribution lags behind, it will further push back a potential timeline.

An article by CNN in December said, “Young adults and children would have to wait until Phase 3 and under other scenarios that’s likely to be May at the soonest -- perhaps June or later, depending on what ACIP decides, what the vaccine supply looks like and how smoothly distribution is going.”

“Are there side effects?”

Side effects are mild, temporary, and normal signs that your body is building protection. You may experience pain and swelling in the arm of the injection. Throughout the rest of your body, you may experience fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches.

“Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?”

There is no live COVID-19 virus in the vaccine. The vaccine imitates the infection so that our bodies create antibody defenses to fight off COVID-19.

“Is the vaccine effective? How was it created so quickly?”

Scientists had a significant head start developing the COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is very similar to other viruses, which already have vaccines.

Testing was thorough and successful. More than 70,000 people participated in clinical trials for the two vaccines to see if they are safe and effective. To date, the vaccines are nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

“What will the vaccine cost?”

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine will be free. Vaccine providers may be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot but they will be billed to insurance with no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.

“Will I have to take one vaccine dose or two?”

It depends on the vaccine. They may be available as both a single-dose and a two-dose series.

“If I had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to be vaccinated?”

It is recommended individuals who have had and recovered from COVID-19 also should be vaccinated.

“Do I still need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others once I receive 2 doses of vaccine?”

It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. It will take time after the vaccination for your body to respond and make enough antibodies to protect you. This could take up to one to two weeks after your last dose.

Current information suggests that it is possible that someone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 may still have a mild or asymptomatic infection or spread the virus to others. So it is important to continue taking precautions. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.

“What about vaccinations for my kids?”

Information about the pediatric vaccine has not been made available yet.

More resources from the CDC: