MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The vaccination process in Memphis and Shelby County is about to speed up when a huge new group of people becomes eligible for the vaccine.
With one full week of running Shelby County’s vaccination program under its proverbial belt, the City of Memphis is now bracing for the biggest rush yet.
Starting Monday, March 8, here’s who’s eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Shelby County and the state of Tennessee in Phase 1C: anyone 16 and older with at-risk health conditions including asthma, heart problems, diabetes, obesity, COPD and liver disease.
“There are a number of these illnesses, these chronic illnesses that are at increased rates in our region of the country,” said Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Hospital. “So, I think it will create a significant increase in demand for the vaccine.”
City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, the man now in charge of Shelby County’s vaccination program, says the city operates five fixed vaccination sites every day capable of administering 34,000 vaccinations a week.
“In addition, we will source a sixth site each day based on demand and based on where we need to hold a pop-up pod so that we can flexibly meet the demands of the community,” said McGowen said during Tuesday’s Memphis-Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing. “We are on our trajectory and on our way to meeting our goal.”
Last Friday the City of Memphis provided vaccines to 11 sites, including multiple locations for teacher vaccinations. McGowen says 41,225 people received a vaccine in Shelby County last week.
When phase 1C opens up, state leaders say the response from those looking for a shot should be massive.
“That is a large population,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey, head of the Tennessee Department of Health. “We estimate that to be in excess of 1.1 million Tennesseans.”
Shelby County’s vaccination process will ramp up to provide more protection for more people.
“I think the vaccine is the ticket out,” said Threlkeld. “That’s why I think we have to be extremely focused on getting people the vaccine.”
Shelby County’s goal, said McGowen, is to vaccinate 700,000 people by Aug. 1.
Chief McGowen said Sign-up Genius will be replaced sometime around March 15 by a better, easier-to-use sign-up system.
The 222-SHOT phone line will also be replaced by a professional call center with longer hours and more people.