MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Vaccinations continue to ramp up across the Mid-South. Now, the federal government is recommending states start vaccinating people 65 years of age and older.
While the new vaccination age guidelines are recommendations for now, Mississippi is jumping into action. Governor Tate Reeve said starting Tuesday anyone 65 and older and anyone with a preexisting condition can make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the state.
“That’s exactly the kind of expansion we’ve been pushing for,” Reeve said.
To make an appointment you can call 1-877-978-6453 in Mississippi or go online. On Tuesday, Reeves said to be patient as phone lines are taking a lot of calls.
Mississippi has administered upwards of 63,000 vaccinations. Tennessee has vaccinated more than 271,000 people as of Tuesday, and Arkansas more than 93,000.
“We’re ready to move into two categories of 1B,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Starting Monday Arkansas will start vaccinating those 70 years of age and older and those in education and childcare. For now, Hutchinson said those between 65 and 69 years old will have to wait a little while longer until vaccination supplies increase.
“We’ve been getting about 50,000 doses a week. We expect that to increase,” said Hutchinson.
For information on where and when you can get a vaccine in Arkansas click HERE.
The Tennessee Department of Health said this about the recommendation of making more citizens eligible for the vaccine: “We are making rapid progress in vaccinating our highest-risk populations, and we’re excited to expand our vaccination efforts to other risk-based age groups as vaccine supplies increase.”
On Tuesday, the Trump Administration said it’s releasing all doses to be used now. Originally some were held back to ensure second doses were available.
“So if everything is released early there’s an assumption the supply chain is going to improve and we’ll have opportunity to get the second doses at a later point,” said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.
Shelby County is set to get about 8,900 doses of the vaccine a week all month. They’ll be split between the health care systems and the health dept.
More than 700 people are scheduled to get vaccinated at the Pipkin Building near Tiger Lane every day for five days a week for the rest of the month accounting for all the available appointments for January.
“There were 720 slots per day. And they went [quick],” said Judy Martin, Chief of Nursing for the Shelby County Health Department.
With only 8,900 doses coming a week to the largest county in the state, local health officials said it’s going to take time to vaccinate everyone. It’s currently only vaccinating those in phases 1a1, 1a2 and those 75 years of age and older.
According to the Tennessee State Department of Health, nearly 2% of the population in Shelby County has been vaccinated. For now, local health officials believe second doses will be available when people need them. They note new information is coming every day and protocols are being made to match the new information.
“The more vaccine we can get the more people we can get vaccinated,” said Haushalter. “Then we can worry about the second dose at a future time.”
As for increasing the age group of eligible people to be vaccinated in Shelby County, Haushalter said the call will come from the state.
“The plan has always been once we get through those 75 and older, or at least most of them, then start opening it up to other populations,” said Haushalter.
For information on vaccines in Shelby County click HERE.