MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The pandemic is not over.
Memphis area health experts issued a plea for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as concern about virus variants increases, and families prepare for Spring Break and the Easter holiday.
Starting Monday, March 8th, more than one million Tennesseans who are at higher risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19 will be allowed to get the vaccine.
Officials are encouraging those who fall into Phase 1C to sign up now for your appointment.
Shelby County residents with lung or heart problems, diabetes, history of stroke, liver disease and dementia are eligible in Phase 1C.
Chronic renal disease, asthma, Sickle cell and obesity are also on the list of medical conditions, along with caregivers to those with these health risks and pregnant women.
The state of Tennessee is moving to this phase sooner than expected because of vaccine hesitancy.
“Particularly the rural areas,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease expert with Baptist Hospital, “I’m told, they did not have as big a demand in the earlier stages. Some people did not choose to take the vaccine.”
The Shelby County Health Department says about one-third of people age 65 to 74, and nearly half of those 75 and older, have gotten vaccinated.
More than 164,000 doses vaccine doses have administered as of March 5th, and more than 50,000 people received two doses.
It’s a start, according to SCHD Deputy Director David Sweat.
“Because we’re only 16-percent of the way through the vaccine campaign so far,” he told WMC Action News 5, “We’re making progress. We can see the forest thinning out. But we’re not out of the woods. The pandemic is not over.”
You can sign up for an appointment on the City of Memphis’ website.
City leaders expect to give 35,000 shots next week.
Slots were still available at the last check late Friday night.
The most recent average wait time at the five City of Memphis operated vaccination sites is just 16 minutes.
You can go to a pharmacy to get your vaccine if you prefer.
So far, 13 Memphis area Walgreens now offers the vaccine, joining Walmart and Kroger in trying to get more people protected from COVID-19.
For more stories on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit wmcactionnews5.com/coronavirus.
“Number one reason to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Threlkeld, “is to save ourselves from critical illness and death. We’re moving down that pipeline well. The second reason to get vaccinated is to protect other people.”
Officials say you will not have to prove that you have any of those medical conditions to get the vaccine in Phase 1C.