MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Distribution locations for the COVID-19 vaccine reopened in Memphis Saturday to long lines and more confusion.
Health officials say it’s critical that everyone sign up for an appointment before getting in line to get vaccinated.
The Shelby County Health Department says COVID-19 vaccinations are available for first responders and others a part of the 1a1 group and people over 75 years old who are part of the 1a2 group.
But the key is everyone must sign up for an appointment first; on Saturday not everyone knew that was the case.
There are currently two vaccine distribution locations, one in Shelby County at Lindenwood Church on Union Avenue and at the other at Shelby County Health Department building on Sycamore View Road.
A long line of hundreds of people stretching for over a mile outside Lindenwood Church waited to get vaccinated Saturday afternoon.
“How long have you guys been waiting,” we asked a Shelby County resident.
“Hour and a half. It’s picked up here in the last 15 minutes,” responded Don Castellaw.
The health department says only people part of group 1a1 and those over 75 years old in group 1a2, with appointments, can get vaccinated at this time.
“Very easy. A lot easier to schedule an appointment than to get here,” said Castellaw.
Some people, like James Howell, didn’t know that until after already waiting for over an hour in line.
“I thought this was too good to be true but I just said ‘well I’d like to get it over with. I will go through the little dance’ so I did,” said Howell.
He says he hopes the vaccine process gets easier.
Despite the long wait and some confusion, most people we spoke to were understanding and excited.
“Well, they’re learning. I think in another week or two you’re going to see things go better,” said Castellaw.
“When I hit that button that said you were confirmed for an appointment, I sat there and I cried,” said Judy Hobbs from Germantown. “I’ve been waiting on this for so long.”
Dr. Jeff Warren, a Memphis City councilman and member of the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force says the timing of vaccine rollout has made the process more difficult.
“If you have to pick a time to bring something out, you probably don’t want to do it three days before Christmas and New Years,” said Warren.
He says issues are getting smoothed out and it’s encouraging to see so many people coming to get the vaccine in these first days of availability.
“It’s really really important that we get as many people as possible as soon as they can to get this vaccine,” said Warren.
The Shelby County Health Department says all appointments for the weekend of Jan. 2 through Jan. 3 are booked but more details on drive-thru vaccination events will be announced next week.
Again, if you are over 75 years old, you can get the vaccine at this time just make sure you call to get an appointment before you show up.
You can make an appointment by calling 901-222-MASK (6275).
The health department says the hotline is staffed seven days a week, including holidays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The hotline is experiencing high call volumes at this time which is leading to some delays.