MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - State and local health department leaders said some vaccine hunters are making sure they get shots by crossing county and sometimes state lines for faster service.
While there’s nothing stopping people from doing that, health officials said it’s not the best idea.
“These vaccines are not constrained by county lines or by state lines,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee Health Commissioner. “There is no prohibition on that.”
The virus knows no boundaries and neither do vaccines but Tennessee’s top doctor Piercey said now is not the time to think outside of the box when it comes to scheduling your shot.
“We do encourage people to get vaccinated in their own county,” said Piercey. “There’s a very important reason why. It’s because that county’s allocation is based on their population. It doesn’t account for people coming in from another county or even another state.”
The concern comes from what officials call ‘vaccine tourism’, which is traveling from one county or state to another to take advantage of more lax requirements.
For example, while Tennessee is still limiting shots to certain age groups and occupations, in Mississippi, Anyone ages 16 to 64 can get a vaccine if they have a chronic health condition that puts them at high risk for COVID-19, including smokers.
Shelby County leaders said because the vaccine is a federal asset they cannot turn away eligible vaccine candidates no matter where they come from.
Proving residency has never been the first priority.
Tennessee, Mississippi, nor Arkansas require proof of residency or occupation when getting vaccinated. Booking an appointment pretty much boils down to the honor system.
Because of the limited number of vaccines, state leaders still encourage local health departments to only vaccinate those who live and work in their communities, or who at least meet age or occupation requirements.
”The reality is with any vaccine effort, we have to rely heavily on people being honest and forthcoming,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.
Local leaders said that means waiting your turn as hard as that may be.
The Shelby County Health Department said people should still bring documentation of eligibility to their appointments.