The Investigators: School systems ‘unaware’ of Health Director’s teacher vaccination date

Confusion over wasted vaccines linked to teachers vaccinations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter says some of the excess 31,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses that were sitting in the Health Department’s pharmacy freezer were intended for teachers, but the teacher vaccination date had been pushed back.

Teachers across Shelby County officially began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday.

According to Dr. Haushalter, the original plan was to vaccinate teachers on February 15.

“We had planned to do the teachers on February 15 and that date changed,” Dr. Haushalter told the WMC Action News Five Investigators in an exclusive interview Thursday. “So it’s not that we were holding [the doses] back for an extensive period of time. Our original start date was February 15.”

However, a WMC Action News Five investigation reveals Millington, Germantown, Collierville and Shelby County school systems weren’t aware of that original start date.

A Shelby County Schools spokesperson wrote in an email to The Investigators:

“In a surprise call from Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ team Sunday February 14, SCS learned of a limited availability of vaccination doses that, according to the Shelby County Health Department, had to be distributed on Monday, February 15 or risk being discarded. While this was highly unexpected and very last-minute, the District worked to seize the chance of implementing our vaccination strategy on behalf of teachers. Although short notice, the February 15th SCS vaccination operation was successful. Please note: This was NOT the SCS employee vaccination strategy that had been previously planned.“

“It sounds like the school system didn’t know that teachers were going to be vaccinated starting on February 15th,” said The Investigators.

“That’s not accurate. We had agreements initially and a target date of February 15 with Shelby County Schools and even the municipal schools,” said Dr. Haushalter.

“Why do you think the school system is saying, ‘we don’t know this,’ now?” Asked The Investigators.

“I’m not sure why. There was early discussions with a goal date of February 15, and the state cautioned us not to move forward,” said Haushalter.

The Investigators learned that in January, Haushalter told Shelby County Commissioners that the Health Department planned to vaccinate teachers in February, but she did not give a date.

“I don’t want to give an exact date,” Dr. Haushalter said on January 20. “It is dependent upon supply as well as having all of the MOUs in place.”

The Tennessee Health Department learned last week that Shelby County’s Health Department tossed out 2,400 unused doses, and more than 30,000 doses that should have been administered were sitting in storage at the health department pharmacy.

On Wednesday TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy said holding vaccines for anyone at anytime is not authorized and “unnecessarily prohibited high-risk elderly individuals from receiving their fair share of this limited and life-saving resource.”

“What do you say to Dr. Piercy’s comments that she released [Wednesday] night?”

“Commissioner Piercy is entitled to her opinion and so, I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not going to comment or engage in some debate about that. That’s her position and I respect that that’s her position,” said Dr. Haushalter.

Shelby County said it’s in the process of administering the excess doses and maintains that no expired doses were administered.

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