Notification about vaccine allows some to get it without an appointment, others left empty-handed

Confusion surrounding COVID-19 vaccine appointments continue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thousands of people who are eligible to get the vaccine in Shelby County are eagerly waiting for more appointments to open up.

When some people got a notification over the weekend saying vaccines were available without an appointment, they hurried down to the vaccination site, but many were told to turn around.

Jesse Johnson hasn’t been able to get his 83-year-old mother in to get a vaccine as all the public health appointments for January are filled.

Appointments open for 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

So, when he heard a message from the Shelby County Health Department went out Saturday offering vaccines to those without appointments he quickly got her in the car and waited in line for three hours, then was turned away without any vaccination.

“There was a phone number on the email and I did call it,” Johnson said. “The lady said ‘We did our best. We were trying to get rid of some vaccine so we sent the text out.’ That was just poor planning. There could’ve been a disclaimer on it like it’s first come first serve.”

Johnson said he was sent the notification by a friend who received it from the Shelby County Health Department on Saturday.

It said you can get the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment if you meet certain criteria. At the bottom, it said to get to the Pipkin Building any time before 6 p.m. that day.

Johnson said he got in line with three loved ones who fit the eligibility at 2:30 that afternoon, but by 5:30 he was being turned away because he didn’t have an appointment.

“A friend of mine got [the notification] and said she went to see if it was legitimate before she started sharing it with people and she said somebody told her to share it with people because they want to get as many people in as possible,” Johnson said.

WMC also got questions about the legitimacy of the notification.

This weekend the Shelby County Health Department told us when the vaccine is available the department reaches out to people who are eligible for the vaccine to get it, and that’s what happened on Saturday.

For now, Johnson doesn’t know when his mother will get vaccinated as appointments remain filled, and no word on when time slots for next month will open.

“I was disappointed all the way around,” Johnson said.

WMC Action News 5 viewers also said people with appointments were turned away amongst the large crowd at the vaccination site on Saturday.

We reached out to the Health Department Monday to get more clarification about the no appointment process at the Pipkin Building, and to see how someone gets on the list to get those kinds of notifications but our request for an interview has not been answered.

While many people wait for answers from health officials about what happened on Saturday, those waiting to hear more about second dose administration have some answers.

The Shelby County Health Department has set up three locations to vaccinate the more than 9,000 people who received their first dose during the first week of vaccinations.

Starting Wednesday, the Shelby County Health Department will start giving second doses to those who were vaccinated between December 28 and January 3.

“I think the biggest lesson is to be an advocate for yourself and keep pushing,” Shelby County resident Joan Prouser said.

For the last three weeks, Joan Prouser has called the Shelby County Health Department countless times after receiving conflicting information on how to make an appointment to receive her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The nurse who gave us the vaccine said we were supposed to contact the health department,” Prouser said. “My husband called one time to check on it and they said you’ll get an email. We never gave them our email address.”

“We were all kind of anxious because we didn’t know what the next step was,” Shelby County resident Debbie Lazarov said.

On Friday, an official announcement was made about second doses saying information on vaccination locations for the more than 9,000 people on deck for the second dose in Shelby County would be released Monday at 8 a.m.

On Monday, the Shelby County Health Department said three sites will be offering those doses at different times between January 27 and Feb 6- The Appling Emissions Site, The Pipkin Building and Germantown Baptist Church.

“It finally came up and it said pick your location and schedule,” Lazarov said. “It was the easiest thing ever.”

More than 39,000 people have gotten the vaccine in Shelby County and almost 9,100 have gotten both doses.

For information on the vaccine, you can call 901-222-SHOT or click here.

If you got your first vaccine between December 28 and January 3 you can make appointments for your second vaccine at the Appling Emissions site, The Pipkin Building or Germantown Baptist Church.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.