Shelby County leaders asking to open vaccine eligibility to all residents

Shelby County leaders asking to open vaccine eligibility to all residents

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Right now in Shelby County, FedEx employees, postal service workers and MLGW crews are all eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

But grocery store employees who are essential during this pandemic are still not eligible for the shot and that makes no sense.

So, Memphis and Shelby County leaders want to level the vaccination field.

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“Offer it to whoever wants the vaccine,” Dr. Bruce Randolph, Health Officer with the Shelby County Health Department, told WMC Action News 5, “Come get it.” SCHD officials said it’s time to stop restricting who has access to the vaccine.

“It removes this whole conflict,” said Randolph, “of who’s at greater risk: the grocery worker versus a teacher or a custodian? This would remove that.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris sent a letter to Tennessee State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey this week asking that the county be allowed to open up vaccines to all adults. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland joined the call.

“Just put everybody on equal footing,” Mayor Strickland told WMC Action News 5, “We have the doses. We have the appointments. And they’re both increasing. Let’s just open it up to everybody.”

Shelby County is in Phase 2a-2b right now which includes those over age 55 and most, but not all, essential workers.

The city-run vaccination sites offer 30,000 to 35,000 doses a week but appointments are going unfilled.

“Within the next 2-4 weeks,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease expert advising the City of Memphis during the pandemic, “we are going to have a lot of supply and not enough demand.”

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The state health department said Friday that “counties may progress through each of the phases as vaccine supply allows.” Shelby County leaders say they’re ready to move to the next phase.

“I think that we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we can,” said Randolph, “so we stay ahead of this virus.”

Also eligible in Shelby County right now os anyone 16 and older with a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to the virus. But they don’t ask for proof of that medical condition.

The state plans to provide more information about vaccine eligibility on Monday, March 22, 2021.

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