MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis hospitals are expecting their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered this week. The first phase of vaccinations comes as Shelby County reported nearly 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest number locally since the start of the pandemic, signs that despite the promise of a vaccine, the pandemic continues raging.
The state of Tennessee Monday said they already have 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on hand as an emergency backup for damaged shipments. The Tennessee Department of Health said they will be shipping vaccines Wednesday for a Thursday delivery to 28 sites, covering 74 Tennessee hospitals.
Tennessee will send out 56,550 doses of vaccine in the initial shipment with a second of the same size to follow in three weeks.
Baptist said it will vaccinate qualifying employees Thursday at its Memphis hospital on Walnut Grove. Methodist Lebonheur Healthcare said they anticipate receiving vaccines this week for doctors, nurses and environmental services workers.
St. Francis said it will immunize workers at risk for high exposure as soon as the vaccine is available. Regional One Health said they anticipate receipt of vaccines this week and have a plan in place to administer the vaccine.
St. Jude said they’ve not gotten a set delivery date yet but anticipate providing more information in the coming days.
The Memphis VA Medical Center said it was chosen as one of the 37 VA sites to receive initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Memphis VAMC will begin vaccinating health care personnel and veterans in VA long term care facilities, once it has been received.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, in a conversation Monday with UTHSC’s college of medicine, said the vaccination process can help end the pandemic. Redfield stressed it won’t be immediate.
“The reality though is this is going to go on for a while. The pandemic globally is not going to be over this year. I believe it’s probably going to take three, four, five years to get a global handle on this,” said Redfield.
Redfield said he hopes two more vaccines will come on line in the spring, but even then he said mitigation measures like masking should continue. Redfield said public hesitancy to get a vaccine is a huge challenge that must be overcome.
“The ability of us to put this pandemic behind us is no longer a scientific problem,” he said. “It’s going to be strictly whether the American public embraces this vaccine so we can get everybody vaccinated, by say, third-quarter 2021.”
Vaccines for the average American are not expected to be widely available until the spring or summer.