Shelby Co. health leaders working to vaccinate more young people

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The pandemic is trending in the right way as more people are vaccinated in Shelby County.

COVID-19 case numbers are now down to an average of 52 a day, and we’re more than 50 percent to our vaccine goal. But the vaccine push begins into the summer, with vaccine distributors focusing on the hesitancy of young people to get it.

“There are a lot of reasons besides the fear of death to get a vaccine,” said David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department deputy director.

Shelby County health leaders laid out the quieter effects of COVID-19 at their joint COVID-19 Task Force briefing Thursday as they see fewer young people choosing the vaccine.

“You can still develop long haul COVID and have illness effects that last for months,” Sweat said. “The virus still does tremendous damage to the lungs, scarring the lungs and leaving you susceptible to other kinds of diseases later. It’s financially ruinous to wind up in the hospital for weeks.”

Sweat said more than 50 percent of COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks have been in people less than 35 years old. About 1,000 people are getting vaccinated a day in Shelby County, but vaccination rates are higher in those 45 and older.

This month, the entire country is making a push to get 70 percent of the population vaccinated by the Fourth of July.

“I know the numbers are looking encouraging,” said Memphis COO Doug McGowen. “I would ask that during the months of June and July, I need about another 30,000 to 40,000 just in that month to really get our numbers up.”

The Whitehaven and Germantown vaccination sites will close at the end of the month, but the city is continuing to focus more on streets teams and smaller pods in zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates.

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