Low uptake of COVID-19 vaccine has city leaders worried

FEMA pushing efforts to vaccinate more Memphians

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - City officials say they’ve got to do more to get shots in arms.

This federal mass vaccination site at the Pipkin Building will likely close on May 17 if they can’t increase demand in this city.

The low demand isn’t at just the Pipkin building, but also the newly opened Frayser vaccination site.

Around 4 pm Thursday, it was a ghost town at the Southwest Community College Gill campus in Frayser.

“I was surprised, I thought more people would have been here today,” said Marcenia Pilate who was waiting to get her second Pfizer dose.

“I have been ready to get fully vaccinated and get on with my life,” said Pilate. However she was told she’d have to wait.

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Workers can’t open a fresh vial without knowing they can use it all at once.

Pilate was told at least 6 people were needed to be ready to take it.

Only two were in line. After waiting about 20 minutes they were sent to another location for a vaccine.

A dramatic drop in vaccine demand is happening across the country and Memphis is no different.

However, city leaders are particularly concerned about Frayser where they are seeing an increase of COVID-19 variants and a low uptake of the vaccine.

City leaders opened a site at the Southwest Community College Gill Campus this week.

However, one Frayser pastor says there’s one big problem with that plan.  

“You gotta realize Frayser is one of the most transient communities in the city and there’s a lot of people that live in Frayser that don’t know there’s a full campus in Frayser,” said Pastor Ricky Floyd of Pursuit of God Transformation Center in Frayser.

He says had no idea this drive-thru vaccination site was even up and running in Frayser until Thursday. Floyd said,” You gotta think as vocal and as committed as I’ve been to our people having access to the vaccine if I don’t know that it’s there then what about grandma Nancy and Leroy.” Floyd says the city needs to do a better job building relationships with trusted institutions.

“One being the PUrsuit of God Transformation Center, we’re not the only one but we’re a place that’s fed people, housed people, clothed people, educated people, buried people and taught people spiritual principals. It’s a trusted place,” said Floyd.

City leaders say if they don’t get increased demand in these next few critical weeks, they may need to re-think their plan including using fewer public drive-thru sites and relying more on their partners like Walgreens, CVS and Kroger to get people vaccinated.

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