Shelby County health officials give update on COVID-19 vaccines as mass vaccination site set to open

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Thousands more people in Shelby County will have the chance to get a coronavirus vaccine starting Wednesday.

Tennessee’s first mass vaccination site is opening at the Pipkin building in Memphis Wednesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is bringing in their own staff and vaccine to assist with the rollout.

Health officials said this new mass site means they will be able to vaccinate 21,000 more people a week.

The goal is to get it out to as many people as possible, including those in underserved parts if Memphis.

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“It’s an exciting time to ensure we’re bringing more vaccinations to the public to ensure we’re hitting those underserved communities,” FEMA regional administrator Gracia Szczeh said.

The new partnership between the city of Memphis, the state of Tennessee, and the federal government means more shots in the arms of those in shelby county.

“Let’s take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to significantly increase vaccine availability so that everyone who wants one can get one,” Memphis chief operating officer Doug McGowan said.

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McGowan said before, the Pipkin building was administering around 1,500 doses a day.

With FEMA’s help, McGowan said they’ll double that daily number to 3,000.

As the county sees an increase of variant cases, McGowan said this extra push is coming at the right time.

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But he said people need to take advantage of the opportunity for it to make a difference.

“We are leading the state of Tennessee and the number of vaccinations administered by any county by a large margin,” he said. “It is time for us to put the foot on the accelerator and show the rest of the state what we can do for it to make a difference.”

McGowan said the county is also working on opening more community pods. So far, he said 20 different pods are scheduled to open in different communities this month and next.