MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The State of Tennessee has announced a partnership with Walmart and locally owned pharmacies to expand the number of locations offering COVID-19 vaccines.
Dozens of Walmart locations along with locally owned pharmacies are working with the Tennessee Department of Health to offer COVID-19 vaccines.
The program is adding more than 100 new vaccination centers across the state.
Inside Express RX in Ripley, TN, Cindy Graves has been the pharmacist for 30 years, helping many members of this community for most of their lives.
“I’ve been here long enough I know a lot of people,” Graves said.
She is now helping her neighbors with something new, COVID-19 vaccines.
Express RX is one of the dozens of local pharmacies as well as many Walmart locations across Tennessee that are working with the Tennessee Department of Health to expand vaccine access to underserved and rural communities.
“We got our vaccine this week and we started giving injections yesterday,” Graves said. “So far so good!”
While we were there, she completed two COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
“That’s the greatest thing to ever happen because it keeps you from having to drive in line, stay in line for hours and hours,” James Cannon said. “This right here was simple.”
“It’s super nice,” Vernon Mustion said. “I don’t have to go nowhere else to get it!”
At Express RX, they started giving out their first vaccine shots Thursday and are already almost out of their first shipment.
Graves hopes they can get another shipment as soon as possible.
“I feel very honored to be able to be a part of the program,” she said. “I signed up our pharmacy months ago hoping that we would be able to help.”
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said she was looking forward to the new program, although each vaccine location will be receiving a limited quantity of vaccines.
“It won’t be a lot because I don’t have a lot right now,” Piercey said. “But in order to get to the most vulnerable and remove barriers to vaccination, we too are going to be pursuing retail pharmacies in the next couple weeks.”
“So now they will have an additional place, maybe a little bit easier for some people that are disabled to come,” Graves said. “We can give a little more personalized service that maybe the health department could.”
Graves said she feels honored to be a part of this historic vaccination effort.
“It’s a privilege,” she told WMC. “I want to help in any way that I can because I’m ready for our world to get back to what it used to be.”
The State Department of Health said each vaccine location goes through a registration process and is expected to provide vaccines based on the phase their county is in.
If they deviate from that, they not be allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccines in the future.