MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Is Shelby County getting enough help from the state government in getting the COVID-19 vaccine out to the public?
It is a legitimate question given the fact that Shelby County lags behind virtually every other county in the percentage of people who have been vaccinated.
That is all in light that Shelby County is by far the most populous county in Tennessee, and the challenges of getting people vaccinated in an urban area are different than in a rural county.
Governor Bill Lee said on Friday the main hold up on vaccine distribution in every part of the state is the limited supply.
So far, he said 215,000 Tennesseans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“I am encouraged by the number of Tennesseans who want to get the vaccine,” Lee said. “We want to encourage folks that are working to make this widely available as soon as we can.”
In Shelby County, around 24,700 people have gotten the vaccine. The Shelby County Health Department’s first initial supply of vaccine is running out. On Friday, officials learned they would be getting around 8,900 doses weekly for the rest of the month.
“Companies are working overtime to make doses and getting them out the door,” Lee said. “We are also working overtime and getting them into the arms of our citizens.”
State health commissioner Lisa Piercey said distribution will be uneven around the state.
“The allocations throughout the month of January should be pretty steady,” she said. “We initially thought they would be around 90,000 a week, but it is turning out to be at 80,000 or a little above that.”
Piercey says the goal is to get new shipments of vaccine to counties every Tuesday and give them out as fast as possible. The state can then order more at the end of the week.
“At some point over the weekend, we will be told if we can have that amount and it will be increased or decreased a little bit,” she said.
Health officials said less than 3 percent of Shelby County’s population have received the vaccine even though the county is one of the largest in the state, making up almost 1/7 of Tennessee’s entire population.
State Rep. Larry Miller said there’s no question Shelby County should get larger shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As he and the rest of the delegation return to the General Assembly next week, Rep. Miller said he will ask state health officials for more answers about the distribution process
“One thing we certainly don’t want to find out and hopefully that’s not the case, that the distribution of the vaccine is being unfair and unequitable. If that is the case then in my mind, I would think that would be almost criminal but that’s a totally different story,” said Rep. Miller.
Meanwhile a few counties over in Haywood, Mayor David Livingston said they’ve been getting about 100 doses per shipment from the state.
According to the state’s vaccine tracker, more than 3 percent of Haywood County’s population have been vaccinated as of January 4.
“I’m sure we’re getting our fair share portion but obviously we wish it was more,” said Mayor Haywood.
In the first of the weekly January shipments, the SCHD is expected to administer up to 4,000 doses, with the balance of the vaccine being administered by the hospital systems.
Based on an anticipated weekly allotment, SCHD will begin offering vaccinations on an appointment-only basis at the Pipkin Building at the Shelby County Fairgrounds each Tuesday – Saturday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
The health department is still vaccinating those in the 1a1 group, which includes first responders, healthcare workers and those living and working in nursing homes.
Appointments may be made on the online appointment app SignUpGenius.
Those without internet access are to call 901-222-SHOT(7468) for assistance in scheduling an appointment beginning 8:00 a.m., Monday, January 11, 2021.
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