Push for people to register for vaccines continues as mass vaccination site kicks off

Mid-South doctors answer vaccine questions

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The federal COVID-19 vaccination site in Midtown Memphis officially opened on Wednesday. And now the push is on to get Shelby County residents to sign up for the shot.

Health Department data shows more than 133,000 Shelby Countians are now fully vaccinated. To reach herd immunity, experts say 700,000 people need to get their shots.

If you have vaccine hesitancy, questions or concerns about the vaccine, that’s OK, you’re not alone. WMC Action News 5 teamed up with Methodist Healthcare for a State of the Pandemic special answering questions about COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and equity.

Federal mass vaccination site now open at Pipkin Building

“All of these vaccines are very effective,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Shirin Mazumder. “And they do what they are intended to do which is prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths. And we’re getting more data that the vaccines are effective in preventing asymptomatic infection which is really encouraging. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae.”

The new FEMA mass vaccination tent at the Pipkin Building is staffed by 170 military members who are ready to administer 3,000 doses a day or 21,000 doses a week. That’s in addition to the 30,000 doses the City of Memphis already offered at the Pipkin, other drive-thru sites and community partners.

Thousands of vaccination appointments are still open.

“I’m encouraging everyone to take advantage of this wonderful, once in a lifetime, once in a pandemic opportunity,” said City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen. “Not many cities get the opportunity to take advantage of something like this.”

Don’t have a car to get to the vaccination site? The city is working on a solution with MATA.

“People who use MATA Plus for their regular travel, can call the MATA Plus line and set up an appointment and be taken to the Pipkin free of charge,” said Memphis Fire Director Gina Sweat.

Long lines and wait times are a thing of the past in Shelby County now. The vaccine is available for anyone over the age of 16 who wants to get it.

“There was a sense of hope and real peace that we’re coming to the end of this,” said Dr. Robin Womeodu, Chief Medical Officer at Methodist University Hospital. “But we’re not there yet. I do believe that people who are hesitant want to speak to someone they can look in the eye, ask questions and get answers. I’ve seen that with my own patients. Some folks are very ready for the vaccine. Others need to ask questions.”

”We all need to do our part,” said Mazumder. “We all need to get vaccinated. That’s how we protect ourselves and the people around us and our community. And that’s how we bring this pandemic to an end.”

Demand for the vaccine is so low right now that officials say they may start accepting walk-ins at the Pipkin Building.

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