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

WATCH: New guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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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Tennessee

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

The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December and the Moderna vaccine not long after.

Above is a breakdown of the vaccine phases in Tennessee
Above is a breakdown of the vaccine phases in Tennessee (Tennessee Department of Heath)

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.

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

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 Shelby County Health Department website, “The Shelby County Health Department begins offering COVID-19 vaccinations for those qualified to be vaccinated on an appointment-only basis tomorrow at the Pipkin Building at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. Vaccinations will continue Tuesday – Saturday each week until January 30.”

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

Mississippi

The Mississippi Dept. of Heath released the phase for the coronavirus vaccine distribution.
The Mississippi Dept. of Heath released the phase for the coronavirus vaccine distribution. (Mississippi Dept. of Health)

Who will get the vaccine first in Mississippi?

Adults aged 65 and older, anyone 16 to 64 years old with a chronic health condition, long-term care facility residents and staff, and Healthcare personnel and EMT/paramedics

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.

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

Arkansas

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

Phase 1-A is happening now, which means vaccine is available for health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, according to the Arkansas Health Department.
Phase 1-A is happening now, which means vaccine is available for health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, according to the Arkansas Health Department. (Arkansas Department of health)

Who will get the vaccine first in Arkansas?

“Phase 1-A is happening now, which means the vaccine is available for health care workers, residents, and staff of long-term care facilities and these high priority groups: EMS, fire and law enforcement who serve as first responders, primary care, urgent care, college/university student health center, K-12 health clinics and school nurses, dental clinics, pharmacies, home health, private care/personal care, hospice care, dialysis centers, correctional staff involved in patient care and transfer, morticians/funeral home staff involved in direct contact or conducting transports and blood donation centers,” Arkansas Dept. of Health said.

Where and how can you get vaccinated?

“Arkansans who are 70 and older can also make an appointment at a community pharmacy beginning on Jan. 18. Vaccine clinics and events may also be available in your area through hospitals and health care providers. For those who work in education, the district, facility or college/university should determine how many doses are needed, and then reach out to an ADH Local Health Unit or a community pharmacy to schedule a vaccination clinic,” Arkansas Dept. of Health said.


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.

“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: