COVID-19 deaths surpass 1,000 in Shelby Co. as vaccine distribution continues

Vaccine administration continues as COVID-19 deaths rise in Shelby County

SHELBY CO., Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department is in its third weekend of administering COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in group 1a1 as well as those 75 years of age and older.

But some experts say the vaccination process is going too slow.

People have been lining up all day at the Pipkin Building to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

But as vaccines steadily get distributed, Shelby County has now surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 deaths and counting and one health expert says we need to move faster to save lives.

Simple and easy -- that’s how people we spoke to described the vaccine process Saturday at the Pipkin Building.

”It really went fast. When we got in there, the procedure went very fast,” said one Shelby Countian who received their vaccine.

Local vaccine drive-thru events held over the past two weekends had trouble with confusion and incredibly long lines.

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Saturday, the Shelby County Health Department seemed to have it all figured

Ten people at a time would drive inside, out of the cold, to get their shot. Afterward, waited in a nearby parking lot for 10 minutes for any potential allergic reactions before moving on with their day.

”I thought it was actually very easy. I liked the way that they have cars come in and you didn’t even have to exit your vehicle,” said another vaccine recipient.

”It’s wonderful. I’ve waited so long to get so I was just really excited.”

For family members who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, these vaccines didn’t come fast enough.

”I did not expect him to not come home,” said Ashley Talford, the daughter of Memphis Fire Department Deputy Director and former Director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Claude Talford.

On Jan. 7 Claude lost his battle with COVID-19.

He was 65 years old.

”I don’t have any other words to describe him other than being the best father in the world,” said Ashley. “People say that all the time but that’s exactly who he was to me.”

”He was just a very generous, caring individual.”

On Saturday, 13 deaths were added to the total, bringing the number up to 1,115 deaths.

”Everything he has done and accomplished in this city of Memphis and Shelby county, he is a part of a statistic, the COVID-19 deaths in our area. And I really believe that this did not have to be,” said Jane Venson-Talford, Claude’s wife.

Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist with Baptist Memorial Healthcare, says he wants the vaccine distribution to happen faster.

“For all these health care workers who are watching these people die, a thousand people is a lot of folks,” he said.

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As of Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported Shelby County has vaccinated only 1.9% of its population, the lowest percentage of all Tennessee counties.

There have been several days this month with no vaccine events scheduled and little clarity when or how many additional vaccines would become available.

”It’s frustrating to folks who take care of people with this because every death seems to be more and more unnecessary when you have those vaccines just beyond the reach of our outstretched hand,” said Threlkeld.

The next drive-thru vaccine event in Shelby County is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Shelby County Health Department says all vaccine appointments are booked for January with no word yet from officials when February appointments will open up.

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