MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis has taken over the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as the Tennessee Department of Health continues to investigate allegations of vaccine mismanagement by the Shelby County Health Department.
New vaccination numbers are being released as the process is tweaked by city officials.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said overtaking the vaccine process has been a huge undertaking.
In his weekly update, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said 6,500 COVID-19 vaccines were administered Thursday and Friday with no doses wasted, no one was turned away and it was an average wait time of only 15 minutes.
Several people WMC Action News 5 spoke to receiving their second vaccine dose at the Pipkin Building Saturday said they believe the process has improved since their first dose.
“The process today was already a million times smoother,” said Whitney Niland, who was receiving a dose.
“Much smoother, much faster, more efficient,” said Bartlett resident, King Caldwell.
The City of Memphis also opened 30,000 vaccine appointments online Friday for next week.
City officials are continuing to use Sign Up Genius for appointments, which has had complaints of crashing in weeks prior.
There are plans to transition to a new scheduling software soon.
“When I checked the new website yesterday, it’s way better, way more slots open for people. And easier to get in and getting your slots whenever you want to,” said Bob Leopold, who lives in Germantown.
The transition to the City of Memphis controlling vaccine distribution comes as Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said a state investigation has found potential mismanagement from the Shelby County Health Department including 2,400 vaccines thrown away, and questions of whether vaccines were stored at the proper temperature or administered past their expiration date.
Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease expert with Baptist Memorial Healthcare said expired or improperly stored vaccines are not dangerous for your health but maybe less effective.
“There’s no indication that it would be of any damage,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “The only problem would be is it as effective? And there’s no clear-cut guidance about that from the CDC or anyone else right now.”
Dr. Threlkeld and Memphis City Councilman and Physician Dr. Jeff Warren both said it’s up to City officials to gain back the trust of the public.
“The city is paying attention to all the problems that occurred prior to taking it over and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be taking steps to try not to repeat the same thing,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, Memphis City Councilman and Member of COVID-19 Task Force.
“The one thing I don’t want to see is endless time spent on trying to place blame and finger-pointing and so forth. There’s been a lot of mistakes made,” said Dr. Threlkeld.
According to city officials, vaccine appointments had to be rescheduled at the Germantown Baptist Church location Saturday afternoon because of the weather and lightning.
Mayor Strickland said the city promises to continue being more transparent in its reporting of vaccine distribution.