MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Monday is the day many Tennesseans have been waiting for. It’s the move to phase 1C of COVID-19 vaccinations. That means anyone 16 years of age and over with high-risk medical conditions will be eligible for a shot.
On Tuesday the Tennessee Department of Health announced the state would move into the phase on Monday. Then, on Wednesday the Shelby County Health Department announced Shelby County will move into the phase with the rest of the state.
With other phases, Shelby County has taken longer to advance because of its larger population.
So what health conditions are on the list?
“Heart problems, lung problems, diabetes, strokes, dementia,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld.
The phase includes those with dozens of health conditions like hypertension, obesity and moderate-severe asthma. Plus those with immunocompromising conditions like those receiving chemotherapy and those with HIV will also be eligible.
Caretakers of children and adults with these conditions and those who may be oxygen or wheelchair dependent because of a high-risk medical condition will also qualify.
Pregnant women will also be up. Tennessee’s vaccine distribution plan notes pregnant women were not included in the COVID-19 vaccine trials.
“It’s clear pregnant women get more severe cases of COVID-19,” said Threlkeld.
The state’s plan also says the risk of COVID-19 is thought to be significantly higher than the risk of the vaccine.
“I certainly support giving the vaccine to pregnant individuals, but like anything else when you don’t have hard data you have to admit that, you have to realize that,” said Threlkeld. “It’s important pregnant women discuss that with their own doctor.”
Allocations are speeding up with demand. Next week the county will get 13,700 first doses and around the same number of second doses. Then the week after 20,200 COVID-19 doses will come to Shelby County.
That’s not even factoring in any of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments.
“It’s just the increase production that you’ve heard about,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen. “Pfizer is increasing its production. Moderna is also increasing its production, but we’ll mainly be getting Pfizer for public vaccinations.”
If you do not have any of the medical conditions listed in 1C, it still only includes those 65 years old and up. The City of Memphis which is now handling vaccine distribution and public vaccinations for the entire county says it’s currently discussing if people will have to prove their condition at public vaccination sites. There could be an announcement about that Thursday a city spokesperson said.
To see all the conditions listed in phase 1C see page18 of the Tennessee Vaccination Plan.
While excitement grows about more COVID-19 vaccines hitting the market, the state of Tennessee is calling the shipments of the new Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine into the state a slow trickle. The first shipment this week will have 54,000 doses.
“We expect after this week to get no doses of J&J for the next two weeks,” said Tennessee State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.
Piercey said a surge in Johnson & Johnson vaccines will hit towards the end of the month. The City of Memphis said it does not know yet how the shipment will affect its allocations.
The state is also looking at the best use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Being one dose and not needing super cold storage methods health officials and doctors agree the doses could help serve certain areas and populations of the state.
“Populations who are unlikely to come back for a second dose,” said Piercey. “Think urgent cares or emergency rooms, college campuses.”
“We also do not know yet the strategy,” said McGowen. “Will they be available for general public vaccinations? Or will it go to specific demographics or audiences? For example the homebound or homeless populations.”