MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - By the end of this week, everyone 16 and older in Shelby County can get the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Monday, Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health announced vaccines will be available to anyone who wants one starting April 5.
Responding to a request from Mayors Lee Harris and Jim Strickland, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said Memphis and Shelby County have permission to expand vaccine eligibility immediately.
The City of Memphis, which handles Shelby County’s vaccine distribution, will do so starting Friday.
Until then, Memphis is in phase 3 allowing people 45 and older to get vaccinated as well as grocery store workers and people in congregant settings like those on college campuses or at camps.
Health leaders say they’re able to move so quickly through phases because the demand isn’t as high as anticipated.
”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 Piercey.
Piercey said in rural west Tennessee less than 20 percent of appointments are filled compared to 80 percent in middle Tennessee.
Allocation is expected to increase as eligibility expands. The state will receive 311,000 doses this week and 350,000 next week, including a large shipment of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Shelby County residents 16 and older can begin signing up for appointments Friday at noon at covid19.memphistn.gov.
To sign up for a vaccine elsewhere in Tennessee, visit vaccinefinder.org.