Hundreds get leftover vaccine after plea from city officials

Dash for doses as CDC investigates Shelby County vaccine distribution

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s a lofty goal. City leaders want 700,000 people vaccinated with at least the first dose by the end of the summer.

In order to make that happen, they have to rev up vaccination efforts.

It started with a late afternoon plea on social media from the city; too many no-shows for appointments at the Appling vaccination site.

“We didn’t know we would be able to get them like we did but my wife heard today they had extra shots and we could come on and get in line until they ran out,” said Bartlett resident Rick Collum.

Collum and his wife waited in line for over an hour to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine even though they’re both under the age of 65 and don’t fall into any of the current vaccination phases.

However, the name of the game now is to make sure that no vaccine is wasted.

It was a similar scene at the vaccination sites at the Pipkin building and Raleigh location after workers realized that they had about 350 doses that had to be administered that day.

Residents like Collum say they are desperate to return to some sense of normalcy.

“Man get the shot. It’s been over a year, Feb 15th of last year 2020 that (when) we’ve actually hugged our grandkids or been in any of our kids’ homes,” said Collum.

The city of Memphis is under additional pressure to properly administer the vaccine after the state announced Shelby county had to throw out 2,500 doses due to expiration.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy sent a letter to the CDC last month seeking additional help.

“I want to alert you that the CDC team arrived Sunday night and came into Shelby County Health Department alongside us on Monday morning. Our teams continue to work together there,” said Piercy.

Tuesday the Memphis City Council passed a resolution asking that the federal and state investigation into the County Health Department’s handling of the vaccine be made public and transparent.

The council also approved $1 million to support the city’s vaccination efforts.

Mayor Jim Strickland said Tuesday sites like the one on Appling cost about $100,000 a month to operate.

That’s money well spent for people like Collum who is hoping vaccination is the key to getting back to the things he loves.

“I like to go to college baseball games down at Ole Miss and I got season tickets and I can’t go until I get my second shot,” he said.

Strickland expects that $1 million approved by the city council to be reimbursed through the state or federal dollars.

The city is also getting some help in the vaccination effort.

Walgreens will begin public vaccinations at 13 locations starting Friday.

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