City of Memphis prepares for influx of vaccine as another shot comes on the market

Johnson & Johnson vaccine allows Shelby Co. to ramp up appointments

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Midsouth is once again the center of vaccine distribution as yet another COVID-19 vaccine comes on the market. This one by Johnson and Johnson is a single-dose shot.

FedEx has started shipment of the new vaccine and Tennessee could see 40,000 doses of it to start.

Monday, the City of Memphis kicked off its first full week in charge of vaccine distribution.

While a new vaccine could mean tens of thousands of doses more to communities, it may take a bit to ramp up community vaccinations.

“After the initial allocation, it could go back down before it goes back up,” Tennessee State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said.

Dr. Piercey explained what she called a ‘quirk’ in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine supply chain during a press conference on Friday.

Related: Why you should consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

“They have told us to anticipate the majority of J & J vaccine will be backloaded into the commitment through June 30, so essentially it will start out as a pretty slow trickle,” Dr. Piercey said.

On Saturday, the FDA gave the J & J vaccine emergency authorization for use. Ahead of the likely authorization last week Dr. Piercey said the state could expect 40,000 doses of the new vaccine this week, but had not gotten confirmation.

On Monday, WMC Action News 5 reached out to the Tennessee Department of Health to see if it had received any shipments of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and how many doses it received, but we did not hear back.

“I think this is an excellent vaccine,” Dr. Jon McCullers with UTHSC said. “It’s around 70 percent efficacious in the studies done so far against preventing any sort of detectable infection. The better news is in the places it’s been deployed in these large studies it’s almost 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. That’s what we really want to get to.”

Dr. McCullers said the City of Memphis will be able to distribute the eventual influx of vaccines.

“There are eight centers open now under the City and we’re going to expand where you can get vaccines,” McCullers said. “More pharmacies, more physician offices. Particularly when we get this Johnson and Johnson you’ll see more physicians’ offices where you don’t have to have the refrigeration like you do the other two.”

Dr. McCullers said once we are administering 50,000 doses a week we could soon see vaccinations open up to most adults.

According to the City of Memphis, more than 33,000 vaccine doses were administered last week.

Appling leads the public vaccination sites with nearly 7,000 doses administered there.

More than 10,000 appointments were booked last week, and more first and second-dose appointments have come online.

The city was working to get about 40,000 doses administered after a state investigation found the Shelby County Health Department had to throw away 2,400 expired vaccine doses and more than 50,000 doses remained in inventory.

WMC reached out to the vaccine makers about the wastage.

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Pfizer sent us a statement saying “We are aware of this situation, which occurred after Pfizer delivered the COVID-19 vaccines within all specifications to the point of use facilities, and the orders were accepted. Pfizer is coordinating with Tennessee state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help inform their investigation and provide any support we can.”

WMC reached out to the City of Memphis for an interview or statement about the specifics of their plan to ramp up distribution as more doses come into the county, but that request was not met on Monday.

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