Lines shorten at Pipkin Building, county looking for assistance with vaccine distribution efforts

Vaccine line at Pipkin Building running smoother

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - People are now describing their experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine at the Pipkin Building as “quick.” A starkly different description than last week where people were left waiting in lines for more than three hours.

Usually, the public vaccination site is not open on Monday, but after hundreds of appointments caused backups at the Pipkin Building last week, some were rescheduled.

While those having to reschedule were surprised, they said the process couldn’t have been easier.

Shelby County mayor calls for more help at vaccine distribution sites

“It was a very pleasant experience,” said Evelyn Mccune, who was vaccinated on Monday.

It appears the kinks are being worked out at the Pipkin Building. A line that often spilled onto the street last week was just a single file line Monday with noticeable screening happening as people pulled into the fairgrounds.

“I showed paperwork and proof of appointment, I pulled into the line, five minutes later I had the shot,” said Emanuel Reeves, a local pharmacist.

Last week when faced with getting wait times under control at the vaccination site, the Shelby County Health Department made some changes, including not allowing people to arrive an hour or more before their appointment time, more specific signs and more screening to get those without an appointment out of line.

Fast lines at Pipkin Building with improved process

They also rescheduled hundreds of appointments to Monday to decrease the number of people in line.

“No problem at all,” said Joseph Winterrowd, who was also vaccinated on Monday.

“I was ready. I took the rest of the day off just in case,” said Reeves.

The health department said they have 100 people working at the site, and they’ve requested more help including from the National Guard.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t see any intervention from federal partners of any meaningful consequence,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “We haven’t seen quite enough from the state.”

Those 100 people working at the Pipkin Building are a mix of Shelby County Health Department employees and volunteers.

“We really need the National Guard and federal and state assistance on all of this,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said in an interview last week. “We have a national crisis on our hands. We have a statewide emergency on our hands. I do think that is going to require additional partners to be brought forward to help and support vaccine distribution and the end to COVID-19.”

Shelby County Health Dept. director apologizes for vaccine wait times

On Monday Harris’s office said that the request has not been met. There are no National Guard members in Shelby County helping with vaccines.

Last month guardsmen were deployed to help administer vaccines in Mississippi.

“That has not happened [in Shelby County],” said Harris. “I cannot tell you why. You watch any movie of a natural disaster and you see tents with military men trying to resolve that natural disaster.”

In reality, in Shelby County, public and private health workers and volunteers have vaccinated more than 61,000 people in nearly two months.

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