MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The federal government is opening one of its community vaccination centers in Memphis. About 25 CVCs are open across the country. Memphis’ site was one of three announced by the White House COVID-19 Response Team Wednesday.
The federal government will bring its own personnel and vaccine when it opens the site at the Pipkin Building next Wednesday, April 7. With it comes the potential to vaccinate 21,000 more people a week.
“We’re announcing three new sites that will open next week. The first is in Memphis Tennessee at the Pipkin Building at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium,” said White House Advisor Andy Slavitt.
The White House also announced a partnership between FEMA, the U.S. Military and state and local health leaders to administer vaccinations to 3,000 people a day.
“It’s what we need. We need to increase the uptake in vaccines,” said Shelby County Health Department Deputy Director David Sweat.
Sweat said the announcement comes at the right time as the county has started to see an increase in the rate of transmission of the UK B117 variant of COVID 19.
“The problem is its rate of growth and trajectory is so rapid,” said Sweat. “It’s 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than the original strain. It’s going to be the dominant strain of the virus by April 14 or shortly after.”
The CVC will receive enough vaccines per week through FEMA to help the community achieve the goal of administering the needed 50,000 doses a week to achieve herd immunity by August.
“From our perspective, it’s pretty simple. We are in a race,” said Sweat.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he’s excited to participate in the federal CVC program with administrative support from military personnel from the 3rd Marine Division. In a statement, Strickland wrote:
“This partnership will expand our operation at Pipkin to 3,000 doses per day, seven days per week for six weeks– that’s an increase of 21,000 doses over the 30,000+ we are receiving per week now.”
Strickland says the vaccines currently allocated to the Pipkin Building will be dispersed throughout the rest of the community pods once doses from the federal government come in.
Why Memphis? In part, the White House said Memphis was chosen because of its high rating on the CDC’s social vulnerability index. The index measures social factors like poverty rates and access to transportation and how they play a role in preventing human suffering during a natural disaster.
The White House said one in five people in Shelby County lives in poverty and one in ten households don’t have a car.
Community Vaccination Centers also put a focus on communities of color, and 64 percent of Shelby County residents are racial minorities. The CDC said the pandemic has affected the average life expectancy among those communities.
“With a drop in life expectancy of 2.7 years for non-Hispanic Blacks and 1.9 years among Hispanics,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In January, the Memphis City Council passed a resolution asking for federal help with the vaccine. It in part said local distribution has not been quick enough especially in African American communities and communities unique to Memphis.
U.S Representative Steve Cohen reacted to the news Wednesday by saying:
“It’s been very good to work with the Biden Administration on many critical issues, none more pressing than ensuring the residents of our Congressional District have access to COVID-19 vaccines. I’m very pleased that President Biden and Vice President Harris have their eye on the situation in Memphis and have mobilized these critical resources to deliver vaccines to the Ninth Congressional District. This Administration’s commitment to meeting the needs of the underserved, and doing it on an ambitious and expedited basis, is already inspiring comparisons with America’s proudest tradition of stepping up when tough actions must be taken. On behalf of my constituents, I thank the President and Vice President for their genuine and competent commitment to meeting Memphis’ public health needs.”
Making an appointment at the mass vaccination center won’t be much different than it is now. You’ll be able to go to the city’s website and call the 222-SHOT number.