MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There are more changes to Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution including a new estimate on when folks under 75 can get their shots.
Those changes include moving correctional officers up to group 1a1 with healthcare workers and moving those who live with medically vulnerable children up in line as well.
Broader eligibility does not mean Tennessee will get a bigger share of vaccines.
“One of those categories we have realized should have been in an earlier phase are our corrections officers and jailers,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said.
Piercey said correctional officers will join healthcare workers and other first responders in the top vaccine priority group. She said those professionals are at risk because of the number of people they interact with within confined spaces.
Parents and caregivers who live with medically vulnerable children are also being moved up, to group 1c, to better protect others in the household who are not of age to be vaccinated.
“Kids that have had transplants, kids that are on dialysis when you talk about them they can’t receive the vaccine,” Piercey said. “Undoubtedly if they were to get infected they’d have severe life-threatening consequences.”
Outside of healthcare workers, first responders and a few others, only those 75 and older are eligible for vaccination in Tennessee.
Dr. Piercey said she was expecting more vaccines in the last week of January, but that’s not going to happen.
With little idea on February’s allotments, Piercey said it will likely be March before those 65 and older can be vaccinated.
“I can’t say I’ll get to the 65 and older group in February,” Dr. Piercey said. “If the flood gates open and all of these vaccines start coming in in the first or second week of February that timeline will be accelerated.”
Even though there is no work on allotment increases, the Shelby County Health Department continues to work on setting up vaccination sites. It says it’s considering a site at Germantown Baptist Church and has said it’s look at a site in Whitehaven too.
The Department said an announcement about a site for those needing second doses would come by Thursday, but the day came and went without an official announcement from the department.
The Tennessee Department of Health said it’s gotten questions from all over the state about if counties are receiving the right allocation. One local doctor told our partners at the Memphis Business Journal Shelby County was being short-changed.
“If I was a county mayor I’d be doing the exact same thing,” Dr. Piercey said. “What we’re seeing is some staunch advocacy from mayors to make sure their counties get an appropriate allocation.”
Piercey said every county is getting the appropriate allotment of vaccine that is available. It’s just that allotment isn’t that much, and at this point isn’t growing.
Piercey said there have been a few expectations that haven’t come to fruition including a possible increase at the end of January which ended up not being the case.
“Then there was this talk very briefly that there was this reserve of second doses that they were going to release,” Dr. Piercey said. “That didn’t happen. Turns out we’ve been getting that all along. There is not specific reserve to be released so that hurt us as well.”
That means for the last week of January the state will get about 80,000 doses with 8,900 going to Shelby County.
Infectious Disease Specialist and lead pediatrician at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Dr. Jon McCullers told the Memphis Business Journal the county is getting short changed, and explained some of the downfalls to WMC when vaccinating the large healthcare community here.
“Our healthcare workers live all over the area in Mississippi and Arkansas but they’re being dosed here in Shelby County,” Dr. McCullers said.
Dr. Piercey said even with demand significantly outweighing the supply the state has made remarkable bounds with the supply it has.
“I think the first one was given on Dec. 18 so we’re just about a month in,” Dr. Piercey said. “We have not vaccinated almost half a million Tennesseans. I think yesterday’s numbers were around 438,000.”