Tennessee fails to meet year-end coronavirus vaccination goal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While Tennessee may be one of the better states when it comes to vaccinations, the vaccination effort started a lot slower than many people expected it would, and that includes the state’s own health experts, who failed to meet a self-imposed deadline for vaccinations.

After setting and then not reaching a goal of vaccinating 200,000 people, expectations across the state must now be recalibrated after state health officials failed to reach that number by some 70,000 vaccinations.

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Some point to a shortage in the vaccine supply as the reason for the slower than expected rollout. Others have pointed to issues in logistics.

Health officials said at the current pace, it would take until August to vaccinate the 70 percent of people needed to ease restrictions. Vaccinating the entire population of nearly 7 million people, officials said, would take until the middle of next year.

In order to reach those deadlines faster, some have floated splitting the 2-dose vaccine in half, which is not a preferable outcome, according to Baptist Memorial Hospital’s chief of infectious disease.

“The idea of having the doses or separating them out more really shouldn’t have to come into play until you’ve given out all the vaccine that you’ve got,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

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Tennessee’s top health official said she expects the state to begin receiving 360,000 doses each month during the year, indeed, speeding up the vaccine’s rollout.

“All of these consequences we’ve had of this pandemic are just speeding up,” Threlkeld said.

State health officials are hopeful other vaccines could get federal authorization soon, which could also help speed up access to vaccines.

A third vaccine, the Oxford-AstrZenica vaccine, could come under consideration from federal regulators next month.

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