City of Memphis in charge of COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Private partner to help ramp up vaccinations as City of Memphis takes over distribution

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For now public vaccinations are continuing with already scheduled appointments this week.

Some things may change in the coming weeks as vaccine distribution is put into the City of Memphis’ hands.

The Shelby County Health Department plans to vaccinate at least 40,000 people this week between a mixture of all those teachers rolling up their sleeves and thousands of appointments rescheduled to this week after last week’s snow.

Some private partners are ready to step in and ramp up vaccinations for the general public as excess inventory is taken off the health department’s shelves.

“We stand as willing and able partners to receive the vaccine,” Baptist Memorial’s VP of Government Relations Dr. Keith Norman said.

Since December Baptist Memorial Healthcare has been vaccinating its employees.

It eventually moved on to vaccinating some eligible patients and has more recently moved to vaccinate some of the general public on a very small scale.

An unpredictable weekly allotment to the hospital has prevented the Mid-South hospital group from ramping up public vaccinations.

City of Memphis taking over vaccine distribution

“We don’t want to over extend ourselves from doing too much,” Norman said. “We’ve kept it on par, on pace. So, a person knows when he or she gets that first dose they have a set date to get the second dose.”

Local hospitals are likely to receive some of the inventory that was sitting on the shelves of the Shelby County Health Department- 51,000 doses with about 30,000 expiring early next month.

During the Tennessee Department of Health’s investigation into wasted doses at the county health department, it said the excess inventory will be sent to partners including local hospitals.

“We don’t know how much and there is some anticipation according to the data that was released it was not requested by us and we have had no part in knowing what is going on or what would result from the investigation,” Norman said.

Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said she requested no more vaccines be shipped to the Health Department while inventory is reduced.

The state determined the City of Memphis will take over as custodian of future shipments of the vaccine to Shelby County.

That means there may be changes in making appointments at the public vaccinations pods.

“Moving forward as of tomorrow we will primarily do administration which means at a site we will be giving the vaccine,” Haushalter said. “We may help with some logistics, but we won’t have to store or distribute the vaccine.”

Dr. Haushalter said an announcement is likely later this week on any changes to the standard appointment-making process.

Baptist Memorial Healthcare is making a plan now on how it will increase public vaccinations if its doses increase. For now, you can reach out to its 24/7 Coronavirus hotline at 866-941-4785.

WMC reached out to the other three major hospital networks in Shelby County.

Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare did not respond to our request for an interview or comment.

Regional One Health said “We have not received information on how the vaccines from the health department will be allocated or distributed,” when asked how the distribution of excess vaccine will affect public vaccinations at the hospital.

St. Francis Hospital said, “The Saint Francis Healthcare Network is currently in Phase 1b of our COVID-19 vaccination plan. We have started planning for community vaccinations. We are working with state and local leaders, and we will keep everyone informed as more vaccine doses become available and we are able to expand vaccination capability. Please refer to our hospital websites and Facebook pages for registration guidelines in the days and weeks ahead. The most effective safety measures we can take against COVID-19 continue to be wearing a mask, washing our hands, and maintaining social distance.”

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