MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the first time ever state health leaders are encouraging Tennesseeans to cross county lines to get vaccinated if enough vaccines are not available where they live.
It’s a change of pace as health leaders are noticing a drop in demand to get vaccinated, including right here in West Tennessee.
“We’re encouraging Tennesseeans of every stripe, color and age and every Tennessean to take opportunity of this vaccine,” said Governor Bill Lee.
Lee announced Monday that the state of Tennessee will open up vaccinations to everyone 16 and up in just two weeks.
The announcement comes nearly a full month before President Joe Biden’s deadline for universal vaccinations in every state.
Health leaders are also giving individual counties the ability to open up vaccinations sooner if they have the supply.
Shelby County will move out of phased vaccinations Friday.
“To be quite honest one of the reasons we are pushing forward in expanding eligibility is because our uptake has been lower than expected particularly in our rural areas,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy.
Piercy said in rural West Tennessee less than 20% of appointments are filled compared to middle Tennessee where 80% of appointments are booked.
Dyer County Mayor Chris Young says his county has seen a dramatic drop in vaccinations administered.
“Well we did 99, I believe, today and we should be doing 300 to 500 every day. We used to do that before the state went to the new system and since then we’ve struggled,” said Young.
The City of Memphis stopped using the new state health online appointment sign-up system after encountering too many issues, instead moving back to Sign-up Genius.
Young admits he’s not sure how much of Dyer County’s low turn-out is based on sign-up issues versus low interest in getting the vaccine.
However, he does say many more people in Dyer County will need to be vaccinated before lifting the county’s mask mandate.
Piercy says the state will start allocating more vaccines where demand is higher.
As of late Monday afternoon, Memphis leaders said they had 8,000 vaccination appointments available.
Anyone age 45 and over or in Phase 3 are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.