MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As state and federal investigations into a growing number of problems with COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Shelby County continues, Gov. Bill Lee was in Memphis at the Pipkin Building Friday.
The governor called what’s happened in Shelby County disappointing and concerning. He said there are still a lot of questions about whether the health department reported issues in a timely manner.
Lee said from the very beginning of the pandemic, the state was in contact with the Shelby County Health Department. He said the health department said the vaccination process was going well but then things changed so the state got involved.
The governor expects to find out more information once the Tennessee Department of Health finishes its investigation.
“There are a lot of questions about the way the info was related, the timeliness of info, timelines of vaccine wastage events, and when that info was made available,” Lee said. “There are a lot of questions about that and concern about if it was done in a timely or appropriate or appropriate fashion. That’s what the investigation is about.”
Lee said there was clearly a lack of leadership at the Shelby County Health Department. Of course, that leadership will change with two top officials leaving earlier this week and now the health director announcing her resignation this afternoon.
The problems in Shelby County have the governor taking a closer look at other sites across the state. He said he wants information from other vaccine sites across the state —especially the ones under local control.
Tennessee controls 89 county health departments. The six others, including Shelby County, are under local control.
Lee said from the very beginning of the pandemic he has constantly checked in with the vaccination sites. He said he is confident in the state-run health departments, saying they have a clear protocol and process for providing data and information. Now, he’s asking even more questions about the health departments under local control.
“We are very very concerned about what happened, when it happened, when the notifications were made,” Lee said. “It’s obviously very troubling, but we have intervened, we have taken this process over. We are partnering with the City of Memphis and feel very strongly about it.”
FOX13 asked the governor whether he provided enough resources to Shelby County, the most populous in the state, during the vaccination process because Mayor Harris argued otherwise.
Lee said he did his part and constantly touched base with Memphis and Shelby County leaders.
Lee said he is now focused on the new distribution process. His main focus is on continuing to vaccinate people in Shelby County.
He said the City of Memphis has a clear and strong plan. Lee said the City of Memphis is doing a great job taking over the vaccination process. He believes things will run smoothly from now on.
“The most important thing we need to do right now is make sure Shelby Countians get the vaccine and make sure there is not a break in the process,” said Lee. “We are very focused on that. We are very hopeful about the process that’s put in place.”
The City says if you have a vaccine appointment this weekend, you are still good to go. Appointments are also now available for next week.
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